Alliance and Suicide Prevention Lab

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Exploring the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and borderline personality features using social support as a moderating factor

By Meredith Elzy, Ph.D.

A Masters Thesis Defended Spring 2009


The relationship between childhood maltreatment and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a prominent issue in the etiological research on BPD. This study further explored the relationship between CSA and the development of borderline personality features while evaluating the moderating role of a primary social support source. The Inventory of Altered Self-Capacities (IASC) (Briere, 2000) was used to measure borderline features of participants in this study, a slightly modified version of the Early Sexual Experiences (ESE) questionnaire (Bartoi & Kinder, 1998) was used to evaluate childhood sexual abuse, and the Quality of Relationships Inventory (Pierce, Sarason, & Sarason, 1991) as well as the Unsupportive Social Interactions Inventory (Ingram, Betz, Mindes, Schmitt, & Smith, 2001) was used to measure social support variables. Consistent with previous research in this area, childhood sexual abuse and low social support were both positively correlated with borderline personality features. It was hypothesized that the presence of a supportive relationship at the time the abuse occurred would moderate the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and borderline features. This moderation hypothesis was not supported in the current study, but possible explanations for these findings are explained. Future research is needed in this area to continue and explore this relationship. It is suggested that longitudinal designs will be the next method of advancing the research in the development of borderline personality disorder and the prevention of the disorder.