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Destructive Relationships: Children of Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

In the world of a Borderline Personality Disordered mother, children can be all-good or no-good. Find out how this can change these children forever.

The bond between a mother and her children is one that is immeasurable. Children see themselves as an extension of their mother, and then value themselves and view themselves how their mother values and views them. Any aspect of the mother and child relationship that is out of balance can affect the child for a lifetime. Learn how children living with mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder are affected by this skewed relationship.

The Basics of Borderline Personality Disorder

The term Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) comes from the trait those with BPD have that makes them seem like they live on the borderline between sanity and insanity. Some traits listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV that are used to help diagnose those with BPD include frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment,  markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self, impulsivity that is potentially self-damaging, and effective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood. These represent less than half of the traits and behaviors that can be pieced together by a mental health professional in diagnosing BPD, but these few demonstrate well how loving someone with BPD can be challenging and stressful. Other mental health diagnoses sometimes made along with BPD include depression and anxiety and sometimes the layperson will mistake the symptoms of BPD as bi-polar disorder, which is also shortened to the initials BPD.

Destruction of the No-Good Child

Christine Ann Lawson explains in her book Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship how BPD mothers often separate their children mentally and choose one all-good and one no-good. Anything the no-good child does is viewed as horrible and an attack against the person with BPD. This wears down the soul of those children, taking it away and making them feel worthless. The tendency is to vilify the no-good child and make her out to be the reason for all failure within the relationship between the mother and child. Sometimes the no-good child is blamed for everything wrong within the family. The no-good child of a BPD mother often grows up to have BPD traits, thus continuing the destructive relationships with their own children and spouse. When the no-good child reaches out for help, they often are met with silence because of how effectively the mother makes them look evil or wrong. Because the no-good child is verbally beaten down, they may reach to things like food, drugs, alcohol or unstable relationships to find love and peace, creating other problems in their life.

Destruction of the All-Good Child

The all-good child is a complete contrast to the no-good child and in the eyes of the BPD mother can do no wrong. While the no-good child has challenges that might lead to them seeking counseling, the all-good child rarely seeks treatment for their challenges associated with childhood. Well into adulthood, the all-good child can feel anxiety or guilt when they succeed or achieve milestones like college graduation. The all-good child is often tasked with caring for the BPD parent and in turn ends up parenting the adult instead. This is just one type of co-dependence because the all-good child then ends up tying her own happiness into the stability and happiness of the mother with BPD.

For further information and insight into the relationship between a BPD mother and her children, pick up the book mentioned above, Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. Christine Ann Lawson details the specifics of the relationship between a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder and her children in the book, giving invaluable insight and understanding to a very confusing family situation. 



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  1. Christine Ann Lawson Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. New York: Aronson, 2000.
  2. "What is Borderline Personality Disorder?." Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center. 4/02/2012 <Web >

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