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Gagnon, J. Daelman, S. (2011). An Empirical Study of the Psychodynamics of Borderline Impulsivity: A Preliminary Report. Psychoanal. Psychol., 28(3):341-362.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 28(3):341-362


An Empirical Study of the Psychodynamics of Borderline Impulsivity: A Preliminary Report

Jean Gagnon, Ph.D. and Sacha Daelman, B.A

The aim of this article is to position borderline impulsivity, as defined by direct and indirect impulsive self-destructive behaviors, within the framework of Kernberg's (1975, 1976) and Masterson's (1976) object relations models and then to test in an exploratory and empirical manner certain hypotheses emerging from this conceptual analysis. We assessed 29 participants using the Impulse Action Patterns section of the Diagnostic Interview for Borderlines—Revised, measuring direct and indirect self-destructive behaviors; the 11th version of the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, measuring impulsive personality traits; the Subjective Emotion Questionnaire; and two dimensions of the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale applied to stories from the Thematic Apperception Test and suspected to be related to borderline impulsivity (i.e., affect-tone of relationship paradigms and capacity for emotional investment in values and moral standards). These two dimensions were significantly associated with, and helped predict, self-destructive behaviors. In turn, self-destructive behaviors were associated with impulsive personality traits. We interpreted these findings using the object relations model to posit certain hypotheses on the psychological mechanisms underlying this relationship and to stimulate future research. Finally, we discuss the importance of using the components of personality structure as conceived in the object relations model to better understand borderline impulsivity.

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