Childhood adversity and personality disorders: results from a nationally representative population-based study

J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Jun;45(6):814-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.11.008. Epub 2010 Dec 10.


Background: Although, a large population-based literature exists on the relationship between childhood adversity and Axis I mental disorders, research on the link between childhood adversity and Axis II personality disorders (PDs) relies mainly on clinical samples. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between a range of childhood adversities and PDs in a nationally representative sample while adjusting for Axis I mental disorders.

Methods: Data were from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; n=34,653; data collection 2004-2005); a nationally representative sample of the United States population aged 20 years and older.

Results: The results indicated that many types of childhood adversity were highly prevalent among individuals with PDs in the general population and childhood adversity was most consistently associated with schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, and narcissistic PDs. The most robust childhood adversity findings were for child abuse and neglect with cluster A and cluster B PDs after adjusting for all other types of childhood adversity, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, other PD clusters, and sociodemographic variables (Odd Ratios ranging from 1.22 to 1.63). In these models, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders also remained significantly associated with PD clusters (Odds Ratios ranging from 1.26 to 2.38).

Conclusions: Further research is necessary to understand whether such exposure has a causal role in the association with PDs. In addition to preventing child maltreatment, it is important to determine ways to prevent impairment among those exposed to adversity, as this may reduce the development of PDs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology
  • Personality Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology