Children of mothers with borderline personality disorder: identifying parenting behaviors as potential targets for intervention

Personal Disord. 2012 Jan;3(1):76-91. doi: 10.1037/a0023081.


Children of mothers with borderline personality disorder (BPD) should be considered a high-risk group given the wide array of poor psychosocial outcomes that have been found in these children. This article describes the parenting strategies that might explain the transmission of vulnerability from mothers with BPD to their offspring, from infancy through adolescence. We conclude that oscillations between extreme forms of hostile control and passive aloofness in their interactions with their children may be unique to mothers with BPD. We provide an overview of interventions that are currently recommended for mothers and family members with BPD, namely attachment therapy and psychoeducational approaches. On the basis of an integration of the empirical findings on parenting and child outcomes, as well as from the review of current approaches to intervention, we conclude with recommendations for treatment targets. We argue that mothers with BPD need psychoeducation regarding child development and recommended parenting practices and skills for providing consistent warmth and monitoring, including mindfulness-based parenting strategies.

Keywords: Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder; Parent skills training; Parent-child interventions; Parenting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Borderline Personality Disorder*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Object Attachment
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prognosis
  • Psychotherapy / methods