Warning message

This content is filtered. APPPAH membership is required for full access to journal articles.
-A +A
Publication Date: 
May, 1991
Page Count: 
Starting Page: 

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.


Adelson, E., & Fraiberg, S. (1977), An abandoned mother, an abandoned baby. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 41(2):162-180.

Buie, D., & Adler, G. (1982), The definitive treatment of the borderline patient. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 9:51-87.

Chesick, R. (1977), Intensive Psychotherapy of the Borderline Patient. New York: Jason Aronson.

Fraiberg, S., Shapiro, V., & Cherniss, D. (1980), Treatment Modalities. In S. Fraiberg (Ed.), Clinical studies in infant mental health. New York: Basic Books, 49-77.

Giovacchini, P. (1979), Treatment of Primitive Mental States. New York: Jason Aronson.

Gunderson, J. (1984), Borderline Personality Disorder. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.

Kernberg, O. (1975), Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York: Jason Aronson.

Kalmanson, B., & Lieberman, A. (1982, October), Removing obstacles to attachment: Infant-parent psychotherapy with an adolescent mother and her baby. Zero to Three, 3(1):10-13.

Lieberman, A., & Pawl, J. (1984), Searching for the best interests of the child: Intervention with an abusive mother and her toddler. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 39:527-548.

Mahler, M., Pine, F., & Bergman, A. (1975), The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant New York: Basic Books.

Masterson, J. (1972), Treatment of the Borderline Adolescent: A Developmental Approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Masterson, J. (1983), Countertransference and Psychotherapeutic Technique. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Masterson, J., & Rinsley, D. (1975), The borderline syndrome: The role of the mother in the genesis and psychic structure of the borderline personality. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 56:163-177.

Pauleikhoff, B. (1987), Post-partum major depressive illness. Marci Society Bulletin, Summer, pp. 43-47.

Pawl, J. (1984), Strategies of intervention. Child Abuse and Neglect, 8:261-270.

Pawl, J., & Pekarsky, J. (1983), Infant-parent psychotherapy: A family in crisis. In S. Provence (Ed.), Infants and Parents: Clinical case Reports. New York: International Universities Press, 39-84.

Trout, M. (1986), "The Psychological Dimensions of Pregnancy and Delivery," Unit II in the videotape series, The Awakening and Growth of the Human: Studies in Infant Mental Health. Champaign, Illinois: The Infant-Parent Institute.

Waldinger, R., & Gunderson, J. (1987), Effective Psychotherapy with Borderline Patients. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.

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.