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Childhood adversity and borderline personality disorder: a focus on adolescence

Newnham, Elizabeth A.a,b,c; Janca, Aleksandard

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 1 - p 68–72
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000028
PERSONALITY DISORDERS: Edited by Aleksandar Janca and Charles Pull

Purpose of review This article explores recent research in the field of childhood exposure to trauma and the development of borderline personality disorder in adolescence.

Recent findings Adolescence is a critical period of development. Exposure to trauma, specifically sexual abuse, prior to and during puberty has specific implications for personality development and heightens risk for borderline personality disorder. Elevated symptom levels in adolescence are likely to decline across adulthood, but social and vocational impairments remain. Impulsivity, difficulties in emotion regulation, and suicidality may characterize adolescent expression of borderline personality disorder, whereas negative affect and functional impairment are more stable features of the disorder.

Summary Preliminary findings in treatment models for adults have potential for benefit among adolescence. Further research is required to examine treatment effectiveness and efficiency. Greater attention to low-income and middle-income nations, which are disproportionately affected by adversity, is needed to determine cross-cultural validity and the impact of trauma in adolescent populations.

aFrancois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

bDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

cSchool of Psychology

dSchool of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Correspondence to Aleksandar Janca, MD, MSc, FRCPsych, FRANZCP, Winthrop Professor and Head, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, The University of Western Australia, Medical Research Foundation Building, 50 Murray Street, Perth, WA 6000, Australia. Tel: +61 8 9224 0293; fax: +61 8 9224 0285; e-mail:

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