Perinatal Depression in Four Women Reared by Borderline Mothers
Publication Date:May 1991
As we become more familiar with the continuum of disturbances that are understood as Borderline Personality Disorder, we have come to know more about how the illness affects-and is affected by-other family members. Much less clear is our understanding of what can be expected in the life course of a person reared by a borderline parent. This paper offers a glimpse of that world, by way of reporting on the extreme anxiety and depression experienced by four women-each of whom appears to have been the child of a borderline mother-upon the birth of their babies. Characteristics of the families of origin, the story of each patient's struggle to announce her pain and to seek help (usually surreptitiously, by way of proclaiming worries about the baby), problems in treatment, and risks to the infants will be described. Especially noted will be the ways in which the vicissitudes of life in a borderline family may create not only an unusually attuned mother but also one unable to give credibility to her vague sense that something was terribly wrong in her family of origin-and that it is about to repeat itself in her care of the new baby. The role of the baby as a transference object for self will be seen as critical not only to the assessment of the peculiar qualities of these perinatal depressions, but as a useful element in treatment.
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Michael Trout, M.A.
The author is Director of The Infant-Parent Institute, Champaign, Illinois. The Institute specializes in research, training and clinical services to families, related to disorders of attachment. Address correspondence to the author at 328 North Neil, Champaign, IL 61820.