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Role of Sexual Abuse in the Etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder

Edited by Mary C. Zanarini, Ed.D.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-496-1
  • Item #8496


Over the years, borderline personality disorder (BPD) has been conceptualized in a variety of ways. However, recent research has consistently found that a history of childhood sexual abuse may affect its development. Role of Sexual Abuse in the Etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder explores the most recent advances regarding this highly controversial disorder, presenting the research and expertise of 26 distinguished contributors.

This book provides both the factual and the historical contexts of sexual abuse in BPD. It presents the latest findings regarding the impact of traumatic childhood experiences on the development of BPD. This new generation of research is unique in that it assesses a range of pathological childhood experiences rather than focusing solely on the parameters of abuse.

This book covers many topics, including evolving perspectives on the etiology of BPD, childhood factors associated with the development of BPD, and the relationship between self-destructive behavior and pathological childhood experiences in BPD. In addition, highly regarded clinicians in this area describe useful clinical approaches to the treatment of borderline patients with an abuse history. This volume offers invaluable information for clinicians treating borderline patients with or without an abuse history.


  • Evolving perspectives on the etiology of borderline personality disorder. Parameters of childhood sexual abuse in female borderline patients and Axis II control subjects. Childhood factors associated with development of borderline personality disorder. Etiological factors in the development of borderline personality disorder in a sample of convicted women felons in North Carolina. Relationship of childhood abuse and maternal attachment to development of borderline personality disorder. Relationship of childhood sexual abuse to dissociation and self-mutilation in female patients with borderline personality disorder. Relationship between lifetime self-destructiveness and pathological childhood experiences in borderline personality disorder. Severity of childhood sexual abuse, borderline symptoms, and familial environment. Neurologic vulnerability and trauma in borderline personality disorder. History of childhood sexual abuse and the course of borderline personality disorder. Biosocial perspective on the relationship of childhood sexual abuse, suicidal behavior, and borderline personality disorder. Effects of a history of childhood abuse on treatment of borderline patients. Index.

About the Authors

Mary C. Zanarini, Ed.D., is Director of the McLean Study of Adult Development and the Laboratory for the Study of Adult Development at McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts. Dr., Zanarini is also Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

This is a superbly written and edited book that quickly and clearly answers the question implied by the title and then goes into rich detail on recent research examining issues and questions about the etiology of borderline personality disorder. . . . The editor is to be congratulated for providing the kind of guidance to authors that results in a book rich in detail, readable, and applicable to researchers and clinicians alike. Each chapter provides a good balance between hard data and clinical application. There are abundant references for each chapter. I recommend this book highly for researchers and clinicians alike who work with patients who suffer from borderline personality disorder.—American Journal of Psychiatry

Eschewing the political concerns that lead to reductionistic thinking, the contributors have consistently addressed the complexities inherent in understanding the etiological factors involved in borderline personality disorder. The authors are rigorous in their reliance on empirical findings, yet the book also is useful to the frontline clinician in suggesting the implications of the findings for treatment strategies. The auspicious result is a state-of-the-art summary of current thinking about the etiology of borderline personality disorder. Both clinicians and researchers will find it of extraordinary value.—Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., Callaway Distinguished Professor, The Menninger Clinic, Topeka, Kansas

Dr. Zanarini’s book Role of Sexual Abuse in the Etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder strengthens her reputation as a major figure in this important area of psychiatry. She and the contributors to the book’s 12 chapters cover all aspects—psychological, biological, psychotherapeutic—of the sexual abuse model as it pertains to the development and course of borderline personality. The material is rich and even-handed in its presentation.—Michael H. Stone, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons University, New York, New York

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