One of the things that frequently marks the childhood of individuals who later develop BPD is LOSS, especially when the loss has occurred as a result of death, divorce or serious illness (necessitating long periods in hospital). In one particular research study looking at this, it was found that three-quarters of those suffering from BPD had experienced such losses in childhood.
Abuse also plays a large part in the development of BPD. One study found that 75% of those suffering from BPD had experienced sexual abuse during their childhood compared to 33% of those who suffered from other psychiatric conditions.
However, it is not just obvious trauma in childhood that is linked to the later development of BPD. More subtle forms of problematic parenting also put the child at risk. Examples of this include:
– the parent/s emotionally withdrawing from the child
– inconsistent parenting (eg praise and punishment being distributed in an UNPREDICTABLE manner)
– parent/s discounting, belittling or ignoring the child’s feelings
Another form of problematic parenting which has been linked to the child later developing BPD include:
– the parent behaving too much like a friend rather than a responsible, caring figure
– turning the child into a CONFIDANT
– role reversal : treating the child like a parent
OBJECT RELATIONS THEORY:
Parenting problems are so closely tied to putting the child at risk of later developing BPD because as illustrated, for example, by object relations theory, the way a parent brings up a child has a critical influence on the way the child develops, especially in relation to the following:
– how the child goes on to see him/herself (self-identity, self-concept)
– how the child goes on to view others
– how the child goes on to deal with relationships (functioning in this area often becomes deeply impaired).
The theory suggests, then, that problematic parenting can lead to the child developing identity problems later on together with problems of self-image (affected children will often later develop a view of themselves as ‘bad’, or, even, ‘evil’) with concordant effects upon behavior. Often, also, a feeling of profound HELPLESSNESS will develop.
In relation to how the affected child sees others, certain patterns have been found to emerge. For example, the child may develop into an adult who deeply mistrusts those in authority, viewing them as overwhelmingly vindictive, malicious and punitive. Interestingly, also, however, there can develop a tendency to IDEALIZE people of importance to him/her in the initial stages of knowing them; because, however, this is likely to lead to UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS of the one who has been idealized (especially in relation to them – the idealized one, that is – being able to protect and nurture them) when these high expectations are not lived up to the failure gives rise to feelings of having been BETRAYED in the one who had those expectations.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out that a very difficult childhood does not guarantee the later development of BPD, but risk is elevated if the individual also has a genetic disposition to developing emotional problems.
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Best Wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MS; PGDE(FAHE).