Adult attachment anxiety moderates the relation between self-reported childhood maltreatment and borderline personality disorder features

Thomas M. Crow, Kenneth N. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Childhood maltreatment is one of many risk factors for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, not all individuals with BPD report histories of childhood maltreatment. Therefore, it is necessary to identify factors that contextualize the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features. With its emphasis on the developmental origins of emotion regulation, attachment theory provides a useful framework to understand how people are differentially affected by early life stress. The present study examined self-reported adult attachment as a moderator in the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features in a large undergraduate sample (n = 1 033). Attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance, moderated the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features, and this relation was non-significant among participants low (−1 standard deviation) in attachment anxiety. These results support the hypothesis that secure attachment in adulthood may buffer against the otherwise deleterious effects of distal risk factors on personality pathology. Future research should continue to examine this question across risk factors and across disorders. Furthermore, we suggest that researchers who have historically examined attachment as a mediator cross-sectionally should re-examine their data for evidence of a moderation effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-249
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Mental Health
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

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Borderline Personality Disorder
Anxiety
Psychological Stress
Personality
Buffers
Emotions
Research Personnel
Pathology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

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title = "Adult attachment anxiety moderates the relation between self-reported childhood maltreatment and borderline personality disorder features",
abstract = "Childhood maltreatment is one of many risk factors for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, not all individuals with BPD report histories of childhood maltreatment. Therefore, it is necessary to identify factors that contextualize the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features. With its emphasis on the developmental origins of emotion regulation, attachment theory provides a useful framework to understand how people are differentially affected by early life stress. The present study examined self-reported adult attachment as a moderator in the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features in a large undergraduate sample (n = 1 033). Attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance, moderated the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features, and this relation was non-significant among participants low (−1 standard deviation) in attachment anxiety. These results support the hypothesis that secure attachment in adulthood may buffer against the otherwise deleterious effects of distal risk factors on personality pathology. Future research should continue to examine this question across risk factors and across disorders. Furthermore, we suggest that researchers who have historically examined attachment as a mediator cross-sectionally should re-examine their data for evidence of a moderation effect.",
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N2 - Childhood maltreatment is one of many risk factors for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, not all individuals with BPD report histories of childhood maltreatment. Therefore, it is necessary to identify factors that contextualize the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features. With its emphasis on the developmental origins of emotion regulation, attachment theory provides a useful framework to understand how people are differentially affected by early life stress. The present study examined self-reported adult attachment as a moderator in the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features in a large undergraduate sample (n = 1 033). Attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance, moderated the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features, and this relation was non-significant among participants low (−1 standard deviation) in attachment anxiety. These results support the hypothesis that secure attachment in adulthood may buffer against the otherwise deleterious effects of distal risk factors on personality pathology. Future research should continue to examine this question across risk factors and across disorders. Furthermore, we suggest that researchers who have historically examined attachment as a mediator cross-sectionally should re-examine their data for evidence of a moderation effect.

AB - Childhood maltreatment is one of many risk factors for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, not all individuals with BPD report histories of childhood maltreatment. Therefore, it is necessary to identify factors that contextualize the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features. With its emphasis on the developmental origins of emotion regulation, attachment theory provides a useful framework to understand how people are differentially affected by early life stress. The present study examined self-reported adult attachment as a moderator in the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features in a large undergraduate sample (n = 1 033). Attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance, moderated the relation between childhood maltreatment and BPD features, and this relation was non-significant among participants low (−1 standard deviation) in attachment anxiety. These results support the hypothesis that secure attachment in adulthood may buffer against the otherwise deleterious effects of distal risk factors on personality pathology. Future research should continue to examine this question across risk factors and across disorders. Furthermore, we suggest that researchers who have historically examined attachment as a mediator cross-sectionally should re-examine their data for evidence of a moderation effect.

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