JOURNAL ARTICLE

A study comparing the experiences of family and friends of young people with borderline personality disorder features with family and friends of young people with other serious illnesses and general population adults

Mirra R Seigerman, Jennifer K Betts, Carol Hulbert, Ben McKechnie, Victoria K Rayner, Martina Jovev, Sue M Cotton, Louise McCutcheon, Catharine McNab, Emma Burke, Andrew M Chanen
Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation 2020, 7: 17
32704374

Background: Family and friends ('carers') of adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and carers of young people with other serious illnesses experience significant adversity but research on the experiences of caring for a young person with BPD features is sparse. This study aimed to: (i) describe the experiences of carers of young people with BPD features; (ii) compare them with published data assessing carers of young people with other serious illnesses and with adults from the general population.

Methods: Eighty-two carers (M age = 44.74, SD = 12.86) of 54 outpatient young people (M age = 18.76, SD = 3.02) who met 3 to 9 DSM-IV BPD criteria completed self-report measures on distress, experiences of caregiving, coping, and expressed emotion. Independent-samples t-tests were employed to compare scores with those reported by convenience comparison groups of general population adults or carers of young people with eating disorders, cancer, or psychosis.

Results: Carers of young people with BPD features reported significantly elevated levels of distress, negative caregiving experiences, and expressed emotion, as well as maladaptive coping strategies, compared with general population adults or carers of young people with other serious illnesses.

Conclusions: Carers of young people with BPD features experience elevated levels of adversity compared with their peers in the general adult population. This adversity is similar to, or greater than, that reported by carers of young people with other severe illnesses. Research is needed to clarify factors underlying adverse caregiving experiences and to develop and evaluate interventions to support carers of young people with BPD features.

Trial registration: Prospectively registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry ACTRN12616000304437 on 08 March 2016, https://anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=369867.

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