|dc.description.abstract||This research investigates whether adolescents with Borderline
Personality Disorder (BPD) can be reliably differentiated from normal and
other-disordered adolescents. Psychoanalytic theory describes borderline
psychopathology as deriving from difficulties in the separation/individuation
phase of early development. Mahler (1946) portrays the rapprochement
subphase of this period as a time when the child is vulnerable to the
nascent of personality disorders. Blos (1967) elaborated this theory positing
adolescence as a “second individuation” where earlier
separation/individuation difficulties reemerge. Difficulties in the
rapprochement stage make the second individuation problematic, leaving
the adolescent at risk for borderline pathology.
Westen (2003) states that research on BPD in adolescence
remains in its infancy. Studies conducted in the 1990’s revealed BPD can
be reliably diagnosed in adolescents (Block et al., 1991; Westen et al.,
1990). The validity of the concept in this age group remains to be shown,
however. “The overlap with other disorders, the difficulty with diagnosing
or differentiating borderline symptoms in the setting of continuing
adolescent development, and the lack, as yet, of outcome data add to the
conceptual confusion” (James et al., 1996).
The most recognized theory on BPD, developed by Kernberg (1977),
suggests individuals with BPD can be distinguished by their 1) object
relations, 2) primitive defensive operations, and 3) reality testing. This study
hypothesized that Kernberg’s characteristics, and individuation difficulties
highlighted by Blos, are more problematic in adolescent girls who meet the
criteria for BPD than normal or other-disordered adolescent girls.
The measures in this study—DIB-R, Splitting Index, Separation
Individuation Questionnaire, BORRTI--measure BPD, splitting,
separation/individuation, and object relations and reality testing, respectively.
Participants were drawn from a clinical setting, foster care, or the
normal population. The presence of borderline psychopathology was
ascertained by the DIB-R (Zanarini, et al., 1989), thus establishing three
groups composed of 21 borderline, 17 other-disordered, and 33 non-clinical
adolescents. Each participant was asked to complete the three
aforementioned measures. As predicted, significantly more borderline
participants demonstrated more severe difficulties than the other groups.
These results allow for greater diagnostic clarity and outline specific
areas of focus for researchers and practitioners such that earlier recovery
might be achieved.||