The specificity of the biosocial model to borderline traits

Duncan Gill*, Wayne Warburton, Ken Beath

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: A number of theories have been proposed to account for the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD). The biosocial model considers emotional dysregulation to be central to the disorder, caused in turn by an emotionally vulnerable child being raised in an invalidating environment. This aetiological model is potentially too broad, as many of these constructs may be equally important to other mental health conditions, making the model non-specific to BPD. Method: We sought to contrast the explanatory value of the constructs identified by the biosocial model of BPD to an alternate form of psychopathology (chronic worry), using a nonclinical sample (N=271), via the completion of self-report questionnaires. Results: Childhood emotional vulnerability had a similar relationship to chronic worry as to borderline traits, with emotional dysregulation playing an important role in both disorders. Contrary to the biosocial model′s predictions, the interaction effects between the childhood antecedents were not found to play an important role in either psychopathology. Conclusion: The lack of an interaction effect between invalidating parenting and emotional vulnerability suggests that this aspect of the biosocial model may not be a strong predictor of BPD. Key elements of the biosocial model may have utility as more generic predictors of psychopathology.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-36
    Number of pages10
    JournalClinical Psychologist
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • biosocial model
    • borderline personality disorder
    • childhood emotional vulnerability
    • chronic worry
    • emotion dysregulation


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