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Goodman, G. Bartlett, R.C. Stroh, M. (2013). Mothers' Borderline Features and Children's Disorganized Attachment Representations as Predictors of Children's Externalizing Behavior. Psychoanal. Psychol., 30(1):16-36.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(1):16-36

Mothers' Borderline Features and Children's Disorganized Attachment Representations as Predictors of Children's Externalizing Behavior

Geoff Goodman, Ph.D., Robert C. Bartlett, Ph.D. and Martha Stroh, PsyD

Fifty-six middle-income children ages 5 to 10 were videotaped completing five stories thematically related to attachment experiences and classified according to representation of attachment disorganization (D, non-D). Mothers completed a self-report questionnaire assessing three core components of personality organization—identity diffusion, primitive defenses, and failure of reality testing—and two other self-report questionnaires assessing current depression and trait and state anger. Finally, mothers completed a questionnaire assessing their children's externalizing behavior. A series of multiple regression analyses demonstrated that identity diffusion and disorganized attachment representation

independently predicted externalizing behavior, particularly aggressive behavior. Identity diffusion alone predicted delinquent behavior. Two potential developmental pathways of externalizing behavior are delineated as a function of the significant roles played by maternal personality organization and disorganized attachment representations. Even in a nonclinical sample, mothers' identity diffusion—a key component of borderline personality organization—made a direct contribution to externalizing behavior over and above disorganized attachment representations. This finding suggests that mothers of children with externalizing behavior need psychotherapy to integrate split-off self and object representations and thus provide a coherent parenting experience, while their children need to perceive a coherent image of themselves in the mind of the therapist to facilitate affect regulation.

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