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Childhood Maltreatment, Adolescent Psychological Difficulties and Borderline Personality Features: A Person-Centered Approach

[ Vol. 7 , Issue. 4 ]


Michael Begin*, Karin Ensink, Sarah Chabot, Lina Normandin and Peter Fonagy   Pages 330 - 343 ( 14 )


Background: Childhood maltreatment represents a major and preventable risk factor for psychiatric difficulties. However, the majority of studies treat maltreatment experiences as if they occur alone, but evidence suggests co-occurrence of maltreatment is the norm rather than the exception. Little is known regarding consequences of particular types and combinations of childhood maltreatment in adolescence.

Objective: To identify classes of maltreatment types and combinations using a personcentered approach (Latent Class Analysis) and then to examine whether adolescents who experienced specific types and combinations of maltreatment reported more borderline personality traits, self-injury or internalizing and externalizing difficulties.

Methods: Participants included 327 adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 21 recruited from schools, colleges and a university and who completed a series of online questionnaires.

Results: Four subgroups of maltreatment were identified including sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect co-occurring with physical and sexual abuse, as well as parental antipathy cooccurring with neglect and physical abuse. With regard to personality disorder traits, adolescents who experienced sexual abuse endorsed significantly more difficulties, as did adolescents who experienced antipathy. With regard to self-injury, adolescents who experienced sexual abuse, as well as those who experienced neglect were at higher risk. With regard to internalizing and externalizing difficulties, adolescents who experienced sexual abuse reported more internalizing difficulties, whereas those who experienced antipathy and neglect reported more internalizing and externalizing difficulties.

Conclusion: Awareness of specific types and co-occurring maltreatment as risk factors for personality difficulties and self-injury has implications for improving trauma informed treatment.


Maltreatment, adolescence, borderline, self-injury, internalizing, externalizing.


Universite Laval, Ecole de psychologie, Quebec, Universite Laval, Ecole de psychologie, Quebec, Universite Laval, Ecole de psychologie, Quebec, Universite Laval, Ecole de psychologie, Quebec, University College London, Psychoanalysis Unit, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, London

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