Borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma: evidence for a causal relationship

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Feb;11(1):63-8. doi: 10.1007/s11920-009-0010-4.


The debate over whether childhood trauma is a causative factor in the development of borderline personality disorder continues in the literature despite decades of research. This review examines this body of literature published from 1995 through 2007 to assess the strength of evidence for such a causal relationship. A unique conceptual approach was used, as we considered the literature in the context of Hill's classic criteria for demonstrating causation. Results of this review suggest that evidence supports the causal relationship, particularly if the relationship is considered as part of a multifactorial etiologic model. Directions for future research and clinical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / physiopathology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events*
  • Object Attachment
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept