Theories suggest that a transaction between child biological vulnerability and parent emotion socialization underlies the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD) features. Yet, few studies have examined the interaction between these factors prospectively in at-risk samples. Consequently, this study tested whether parental reactions to children’s negative emotions moderated the effect of the child’s physiological reactivity to stress in predicting adolescent BPD features in a sample of youth with and without clinical elevations in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Participants were 61 children (52% female) and parents (90% mothers). When children were 9–13 years old, their physiological reactivity to a social stressor was assessed based on respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and skin conductance level (SCL) reactivity; parents also reported on their supportive and non-supportive reactions to their child’s negative emotions. Children were followed-up four to five years later at ages 14–18 years old and their BPD features were assessed based on parent and adolescent report. Significant interactions between children’s SCL reactivity and parental reactions to children’s negative emotions were found in predicting adolescent BPD features. Children with low SCL reactivity to social stress and parents high in supportive/low in non-supportive reactions were lowest in adolescent BPD features. However, greater SCL reactivity predicted greater adolescent BPD features specifically when the parent was high in support or low in non-support. Childhood ADHD symptoms also significantly predicted greater adolescent BPD features. Findings suggest that children with different patterns of SCL reactivity may respond differently to parental reactions to their emotions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology