Insecure attachment and maladaptive emotion regulation mediating the relationship between childhood trauma and borderline personality features

Wanrong Peng, Zhaoxia Liu, Qian Liu, Jun Chu, Kaili Zheng, Jingwei Wang, Hao Wei, Mingtian Zhong, Yu Ling, Jinyao Yi
Depression and Anxiety 2020 July 27

BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggested that childhood trauma is an important etiologic factor for the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Moreover, insecure attachment and maladaptive emotion regulation (ER) might be related to childhood trauma and BPD. This study was aimed to explore the relationships among childhood trauma, insecure attachment, maladaptive ER, and BPD features.

METHODS: A cohort of 637 patients with psychological disorders completed a series of psychometric instruments such as the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-4+ (PDQ-4+), the 23-Item Borderline Symptom List, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, the Attachment Style Questionnaire, and the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire. The path analyses were conducted to investigate the experience-driven model that whether insecure attachment and maladaptive ER could mediate the relationship between childhood trauma and BPD features. The random forest regression was performed to select variables that contribute significantly to BPD features, which variables would be incorporated into the data-driven model to further confirm the experience-driven model.

RESULTS: Both the experience-driven model and the data-driven model verified that there were three significant mediation pathways (childhood trauma → insecure attachment/maladaptive ER → BPD features, childhood trauma → insecure attachment → maladaptive ER → BPD features; all p < .05), and the most weighted mediation pathway by which childhood trauma influencing the BPD features was through insecure attachment and then through maladaptive ER (weighted 53.16%).

CONCLUSION: The influence of childhood trauma on BPD features was mainly mediated by the combination of insecure attachment and maladaptive emotion regulation.

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