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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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93. Dimensional Personality Traits and Stressful Life Events in Borderline Personality Disorder: Evidence for Stress Generation and Stress Exposure Effects

Recent evidence suggests that borderline personality disorder (BPD) prospectively predicts the occurrence of dependent stressful life events, or events an individual may have played some role in bringing about. These findings are consistent with stress generation effects that have been documented in other disorders, including depression. Nonetheless, interpreting these findings is difficult given recent evidence challenging the validity and reliability of existing categorical personality disorders, including BPD. In the present study, we attempt to overcome this limitation of the existing literature by examining the dynamic associations between stressful life events and the three maladaptive trait dimensions most commonly linked to BPD—Negative Affect, Antagonism, and Disinhibition. The sample included 436 participants who were diagnosed with BPD based on the existing categorical DSM criteria. Participants were assessed annually for three years. Results of autoregressive cross-lagged panel models indicated that Antagonism and Disinhibition were positively associated with prospective dependent stress. In contrast, independent stress (stress outside the participant’s control) prospectively predicted increases in Negative Affect, consistent with a stress exposure effect. Interactions between the three trait dimensions and stressful life events also predicted several clinical outcomes, including suicide attempts and hospitalizations. Overall, these results suggest that maladaptive trait dimensions hold considerable promise for clarifying the dynamic links between personality pathology and stress over time.

Timothy Allen
Pennsylvania State University

Alexandre Dombrovski
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Michael Hallquist
Pennsylvania State University


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