Parameters of reported childhood sexual abuse and assault in adolescents and adults with borderline personality disorder

Christina M. Temes, Laura R. Magni, Blaise A. Aguirre, Marianne Goodman, Maria Elena Ridolfi, Mary C. Zanarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Prior research has demonstrated a link between childhood sexual abuse and borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adolescents and adults and has indicated that more severe abuse is related to poorer psychosocial functioning. The present study describes the overall severity of sexual abuse/assault in adolescents and adults with BPD and compares both groups on specific parameters of abusive and assaultive experiences. Methods: Participants included 104 adolescent (aged 13–17 years) inpatients with BPD and 290 adult inpatients with BPD. All participants completed two interviews that assessed the presence and severity of sexual abuse/assault. Results: Of the studied patients with BPD, 26.0% of adolescents and 62.4% of adults reported a childhood history of sexual abuse/assault before the age of 18. Adults had higher scores on an index of sexual abuse severity than adolescents, and a higher proportion of adults reported scores in the severe range. Adults with BPD were also more likely than adolescents to report having experienced sexual abuse/assault that occurred at multiple developmental stages, was frequent (i.e. weekly basis or more), was longer in duration (i.e. a year or more) and was perpetrated by a parent. The groups did not differ on other parameters. Conclusions: Taken together, these results suggest that adults with BPD are more likely to report childhood sexual abuse/assault than adolescents with BPD. Additionally, adults report histories of sexual abuse/assault that are more severe than adolescents with BPD, with specific differences observed in timing, frequency, duration and perpetrator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-262
Number of pages9
JournalPersonality and Mental Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Personality Disorders
  • Mentalization
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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