The Challenge: A borderline personality disordered (BPD) individual has a very fragile and unpredictable personality. They may be highly educated and have very successful careers. However, they struggle with interpersonal relationships because they are too fragile to be effective. They are very much like emotional children locked in an adult body, expected to function in adult relationships. When things are going their way, they can be delightful and charming. As soon as they do not get their way, or someone crosses them, they will quickly resort to destructive means to stabilize their fragile sense of self.
Coping Mechanisms: The BPD’s greatest fear is to be abandoned and they will do just about anything to avoid the crushing blow of perceived rejection. They must feel they are loved at all times. They will create dependency in their child and will have difficulty seeing their child as separate. Sadly they “split” which means they view others, including their children, as either all good or all bad.
They do not allow themselves to acknowledge anything in the “gray” area of life where most of reality exists. For example, if their child loves the other parent, then the BPD parent will over-react and believe they are being rejected by their child. They teach their child that if they want to feel safe then they have to adore them. They make it known in every possible way that “You are for me or you are against me.” If there is more than one child, the BPD parent may even idealize one child and reject the other.
The Impact of Being Raised by a Borderline Personality Disordered Parent
Children of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are a disadvantaged group of children that are at risk for future psychopathology. Crandell et al. (1997) demonstrated that, for these children, attachment status is not completely stable.
Some children are able to resolve early traumatic experiences and are able to obtain an ‘earned secure’ attachment status in adulthood. Adults with an earned secure status function comparably to adults who had secure attachment status as children (Crandell et al, 1997). These findings hold great promises for the prognosis of children of mothers with BPD. With adequate attention and intervention, there is hope that children of mothers with BPD will overcome the risks associated with this maternal psychopathology.
Have Your Parents Put You at Risk for Psychopathology
Working with children who have irrationally rejected a parent is an emerging area of practice with unique risks. The dynamics that drive false allegations about a parent also drive accusations against professionals who participate in a process to reunify the children with that parent. This article discusses protective measures to reduce risks of false accusations, character assassination, harassment, and violence. Recommendations are offered for organizations charged with investigating complaints. Agencies that do an inadequate job of handling such complaints may harm the public by driving innovators from the field and reducing the availability of programs that have helped many families.
Risks to Professionals Who Work With Troubled and Alienated Parent-Child Relationships