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The Role of Childhood Trauma in Differences in Affective Instability in Those With Personality Disorders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2014



This study examined the relationship of self-reported histories of childhood trauma to measures of affective instability in a sample of unmedicated outpatients with various personality disorders (n=174).


Childhood trauma was measured by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Affective instability comprises at least two dimensions: affective lability, assessed using the Affective Lability Scale, and affective intensity, assessed using the Affective Intensity Measure.


A history of emotional abuse was the only trauma variable that significantly correlated with the affect measures in the total sample (r=.21–.30). More fine-grained analyses revealed that the relationship of emotional abuse and affective instability measures varied as a function of both gender and personality disorder type. In subjects with borderline personality disorder, the correlation for emotional abuse was greatly attenuated for both Affective Lability Scale (r=.10) and Affective Intensity Measure (r=.15) total scores.


This suggests that nontrauma-related factors may be more predominant in affective dyscontrol in individuals with borderline personality disorder.

Original Research
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2003

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