Perinatal Depression in Four Women Reared by Borderline Mothers

By Trout, Michael Ma | Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal, Summer 1991 | Go to article overview

Perinatal Depression in Four Women Reared by Borderline Mothers


Trout, Michael Ma, Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal


ABSTRACT: As we become more familiar with the continuum of disturbances that are understood as Borderline Personality Disorder, we have come to know more about how the illness affects-and is affected by-other family members. Much less clear is our understanding of what can be expected in the life course of a person reared by a borderline parent. This paper offers a glimpse of that world, by way of reporting on the extreme anxiety and depression experienced by four women-each of whom appears to have been the child of a borderline mother-upon the birth of their babies. Characteristics of the families of origin, the story of each patient's struggle to announce her pain and to seek help (usually surreptitiously, by way of proclaiming worries about the baby), problems in treatment, and risks to the infants will be described. Especially noted will be the ways in which the vicissitudes of life in a borderline family may create not only an unusually attuned mother but also one unable to give credibility to her vague sense that something was terribly wrong in her family of origin-and that it is about to repeat itself in her care of the new baby. The role of the baby as a transference object for self will be seen as critical not only to the assessment of the peculiar qualities of these perinatal depressions, but as a useful element in treatment.

The DSM III criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder are specific, and include eight characteristics: impulsivity; unstable, intense interpersonal relationships; identity disturbance; affective instability; intolerance of being alone; commission of physically self-damaging acts; chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom; and inappropriate, intense and poorly controlled anger. Clearly, not all patients who qualify for the diagnosis exhibit all eight characteristics, and there is a marked lack of clarity in the literature regarding the exact parameters of the diagnosis. Practicing clinicians often acknowledge a kind of borderline continuum, along which patients fall by virtue of their present functioning, capacity to engage in treatment, and the presence or absence of related or secondary disturbances. (Other diagnostic considerations often include major depressive disorders, and histrionic, narcissistic, paranoid and dependent personality disorders.)

Clinicians in the field may first recognize such patients on the basis of the intense countertransferential reactions they evoke in the therapist-". . . using suicide threats, unreasonable demands, and a wide variety of other coercive behaviors to draw the therapist out of a position of psychotherapeutic neutrality and into the roles of caretaker, parent, persecutor, and adversary." (Waldinger et al., 1987, p. 6).

While there seems to be consensus about the critical developmental period involved in the formation of the disorder-the "rapprochement" subphase (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 76-108) during which the infant struggles simultaneously for separateness and for assurance of the availability, at any moment needed, of reunion with the primary caregiver-there is not universal agreement about how the disorder then forms. Masterson sees that the borderline's primary caregiver was not able to tolerate such movement toward separation and, therefore, gave messages to the child that emotional supplies would be withdrawn if the efforts at separation continued (Masterson et al., 1975). The interpersonal problems the patient experiences, then-as well as the transferences in treatment-reflect real experience (in infancy).

Others suggest that the disorder-and the related transferences in therapy-may reflect gross distortions of childhood experiences by primitive defenses (Kernberg, 1975; Gunderson, 1984) or other deficits: in ego structure, as a result of utter failures in early gratification (Giovacchini, 1979); and in holding-soothing objects, resulting in extreme vulnerability to terror and panic, with no ability to evoke soothing images (Buie et al. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Perinatal Depression in Four Women Reared by Borderline Mothers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.