Childhood Trauma, BPD, Genes And Culture.

We already know, from other articles that I have published on this site, that if we suffered significant childhood trauma we are at vastly increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) during our adulthood than those who had relatively stable childhoods.

Indeed, the experience of childhood trauma is the single greatest predictor of the later development of this life-threatening disorder (one in ten sufferers of BPD, approximately, eventually take their own lives, such is the terrible intensity of emotional distress this awful condition can bestow).

It is thought, too, that genetics play a role. Therefore, someone brought up by a parent with BPD is at high risk of developing it too as they are likely to have had a highly stressful and traumatic upbringing AND may have inherited a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder.

However, it is also theorized that certain cultural factors may also increase one’s risk of a person developing BPD; I briefly examine this possibility below:

Cultural Factors That May Increase Risk Of A Person Developing BPD:

Cultural factors that might make the development of BPD in individuals more prevalent in society:

– the breakdown of the family
– the emphasis placed on individualism
– a growing sense of entitlement amongst individuals within society
– the isolating effects of increasingly sophisticated technology (such as computer games and the internet).

Let’s look at each of these in turn:


In Western society, divorce between a child’s parents is far more common than it was, say, fifty years ago and research shows that this is damaging to the child’s psychological development.
Also, extended families are less close-knit than they were half a century ago with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. being less likely to be in frequent and close contact than in the past.
Because of this, less emotional support is available to the child, thus making him/her more vulnerable to developing psychological difficulties.


In the West, we tend to encourage individualism, whereas, in the Far East, for example, much more importance is placed on the extended family keeping emotionally close and upon the value of the community.

It has been hypothesised that a society that stresses individualism is more likely to produce people who are constantly self-evaluating in order to gauge whether they are ‘better’ or ‘of more value’ than others; this then leads to an unhealthy self-absorption that, in turn, leads to psychological disorders.


Suffering is, of course, part of the human condition, and the price we pay for our high level of consciousness and self-awareness.

Until relatively recently, suffering was more accepted as a natural part of life and people were more likely to adopt a ‘grin- and- bear- it’ attitude and take the view that it strengthened character.

However, we are now a society comprising individuals who have a much greater sense of entitlement which extends into the realms of mental health – an expectation that we should feel good all the time and, if we don’t, the situation should be immediately remedied with a pill.

This is clearly unrealistic and it is possible that this somewhat naive attitude has led people to be less tolerant of negative feelings and life’s inevitable frustrations which, in turn, makes them less able to cope with high levels of stress.


Because of the current high use of computer games and the internet etc., people spend less time in face-to-face contact than used to be the case.

It is theorized that this has led to more superficial relationships which, in turn, make people less able to build real trust and strong bonds with others, leading to less solid social support and commensurate greater vulnerability to emotional distress.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.