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Role of Sexual Abuse in the Etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder

Edited by Mary C. Zanarini, Ed.D.

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

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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

In summary, Zanarini has collected a series of important studies that provide a balanced view of the contribution of early childhood trauma to the development of BPD in adults. Both her own work and that of the investigators whose research reports comprise the book chapters support a multifactorial model of the etiology of BPD.—Archives of Sexual Behavior

For those who want to understand more clearly the relationship between sexual abuse and long-term effects, this book offers a model for cogent and reasoned analysis of claims about the consequences of being sexually abused.—Issues in Child Abuse Accusations

[T]he thoroughness and depth of study provided in this book will make it essential reading for anyone contemplating research in this area. . . . Researchers investigation personality disorders will find this text to be of great use. However, practicing therapists will also find that his book stimulates their conceptualizations and treatment plans of BPD clients.—Violence Against Women

It is fascinating, however, to read some of the more recent endeavors in this rapidly evolving field. While much to the work is research-based, this volume in my view has useful input for clinical work also, and is likely to provide some validation for clinicians about how environments which may not initially appear horrific may lead to major personality disorders.—Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

This book would be well suited for a library. It is a concentrated reference source on par with special-issue journals. The purpose and format encourage individual thought within the field of mental health. It is an excellent resource for those interested in keeping up with current research on borderline personality disorder and has a format that encourages thought.—Doody's Weekly E-mail Bulletin (Doody's Health Sciences Book Review)

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