Which Factors Of The ‘5 Factor Model Of Personality’ Predict BPD?



The diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is predicated upon the notion that those who suffer from it have aspects of their personalities which are problematic, self-defeating and dysfunctional so, in the first instance, it is useful to explain what is meant by personality.

In fact, there are several theories which attempt to describe what personality rather than one, definitive theory and one of the best-known theories is called the five-factor model of personality.

What Is The 5 Factor Model Of Personality? :

The 5 factor model of personality proposes that personality comprises 5 main factors/traits/characteristics, represented by the acronym OCEAN.

These 5 factors are shown and elucidated below :

Openness To Experience (inventive /curious versus consistent / cautious).

Conscientiousness (efficient / organized versus easy-going / careless).

Extraversion (outgoing / energetic versus solitary / reserved).

Agreeableness (friendly / compassionate versus challenging / detached).

Stability/Neuroticism (sensitive / nervous versus secure / confident).

The 5 Factor Model Of Personality And BPD :

Because, as already stated, a diagnosis of BPD is based on the idea that aspects of diagnosed person’s personality are disturbed we would expect there to be some relationship between this model of personality and the personalities of those suffering from BPD.

In relation to this, researchers have posed the question: to what degree can a diagnosis of BPD be predicted from a description of a person’s personality based upon the 5-factor model?

Can a description of a person’s personality based on the 5-factor model predict a diagnosis of BPD in the same individual?

One study (Distel et al., 2009) that sought to answer this question, involving over 10,000 participants in total, found that, in terms of the 5-factor model, the traits that best predicted BPD were :

  • High Neuroticism combined with Low Conscientiousness

Another study (Kendler et al., 2011) came up with similar results, finding that the three factors which correlated most highly with BPD were :

  • High Neuroticism

  • Low Conscientiousness

  • Low Agreeableness

A third study (Terr, 1991) found that individuals who had suffered significant childhood trauma (extremely common among BPD sufferers) scored more highly than controls on :

  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to new experience.


  • Distel MA, Trull TJ, Willemsen G, et al. The five-factor model of personality and borderline personality disorder: a genetic analysis of comorbidity. Biol Psychiatry. 2009;66(12):1131-1138.doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.07.017
  • Kendler KS, Myers J, Reichborn-Kjennerud T. Borderline personality disorder traits and their relationship with dimensions of normative personality: a web-based cohort and twin study. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011;123(5):349-359. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01653.x
  • Terr, Lenore. (1991). Childhood Traumas: An Outline and Overview. The American journal of psychiatry. 148. 10-20. 10.1176/foc.1.3.322.




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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


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