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ProChild – Preventing maltreatment and promoting mental health in children of mothers with Borderline
Personality Disorder

Background

Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental disoder and is characterized by frequently recurring extreme changes in mood, self-image and identity as well as impulsive and self-destructive behavior. Severe emotion regulation difficulties and dysfunctional relationships are a hallmark feature of Borderline Personality Disorder. For mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder, parenthood is a great challenge as these women themselves often made negative experiences with their primary caregivers and experienced traumatization. Previous research shows that children of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder are a particularly vulnerable group to experience abuse and emotional neglect. Furthermore, they are often in contact with the health care system. In order to prevent the transmission of violence, neglect and psychopathology, it is necessary to increase parental skills and socioemotional functioning in mothers and to improve the support of parents by the youth welfare system.

Using a broad range of methods, our consortium has the expertise to comprehensively analyze and improve the situation of children whose mothers suffer from a Borderline Personality Disorder. Through a better understanding of underlying conditions, effective treatment options can be provided.

Hereby, we assume that an early intervention for mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder is crucial to prevent maltreatment in children and to help them thrive. The urgent need to explicitly target the parent-child relationship and to improve parenting skills of affected mothers has been emphasized, as standard parenting programs do not focus on the specific deficits of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder and the consequences for their children. Therefore, we developed the program Parenting Skills for mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder which is specifically designed for this group. The intervention especially focusses on young children (aged 6 months – 6 years) of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder who are at particularly high risk for maltreatment.

The research project`s objectives

The overall aim of the project is to provide new and effective ways to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of abuse and violence from parent to child. Within the framework of our research project, we will (1) conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate a training program for mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder to increase parenting skills and to promote healthy upbringing, (2) identify the specific characteristics and interaction patterns of children and their mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder compared to children and their mothers with Anxiety or Depressive Disorders and children and their healthy mothers, (3) assess and derive recommendations for improved cooperation between the youth welfare institutions, parents and practitioners. The mediating and moderating role of social, psychological, and epigenetic factors on intervention-associated changes in socio-emotional functioning of mothers and their children will be examined. The training is expected to improve parenting skills, emotion regulation skills and to reduce risk of child maltreatment in this high risk group.