Most of the people I’m aware of with BPD have been subject to physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. As far as I know, I haven’t been subject to any of those things, so I’ve often wondered what environmental factors contributed to me developing the disorder. Recently, I’ve been piecing together memories of the invalidation I’ve suffered, which is one predictor of BPD. Today, I learned a little bit more about another BPD predictor I have: ineffective parenting in infancy.
I’ve known for some time there were several factors working against my parents raising me successfully. They were both very young when I was born. I was their first child. They had poor parenting role models. My mom lost her dad a few years before my arrival, and her boyfriend was killed in the Vietnam war shortly thereafter. Despite being a star student in high school, she had dropped out of college without completing her degree. Today, my father confirmed my suspicion that I was a surprise, born out of wedlock a year before my parents got married.
For an infant to develop in a healthy fashion, a parent must accurately reflect back the infant’s emotional state and not the parent’s own state. If a parent is depressed or preoccupied, she is more likely to reflect her own state rather than the child’s. This interferes with the child building up a stable and robust sense of self. That child is more likely to misinterpret and be hypersensitive to the actions of others, and may even develop BPD. (1) I believe this partly explains what happened to me. My mother was depressed and preoccupied about several things, possibly including her surprise pregnancy. Therefore, she did not accurately refelct my emotional states. This interfered with my development, and, combined with biological factors, led to the development of borderline personality disorder. My sisters did not develop BPD, maybe because my parents were older and more experienced, more time had passed since my mother’s losses, and my sisters’ biology was slightly different than mine.
1. Bateman, Anthony W., MD. Borderline Personality Disorder conference. University of Minnesota. Embassy Suites Hotel, Bloomington, MN. 18 October 2008. Interpersonal Relationships: Where Does Attachment Fit In?