Theory of mind and emotion regulation difficulties in adolescents with borderline traits.

Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77024, USA.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.35). 06/2011; 50(6):563-573.e1. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2011.01.017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Dysfunctions in both emotion regulation and social cognition (understanding behavior in mental state terms, theory of mind or mentalizing) have been proposed as explanations for disturbances of interpersonal behavior in borderline personality disorder (BPD). This study aimed to examine mentalizing in adolescents with emerging BPD from a dimensional and categorical point of view, controlling for gender, age, Axis I and Axis II symptoms, and to explore the mediating role of emotion regulation in the relation between theory of mind and borderline traits.
The newly developed Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC) was administered alongside self-report measures of emotion regulation and psychopathology to 111 adolescent inpatients between the ages of 12 to 17 (mean age = 15.5 years; SD = 1.44 years). For categorical analyses borderline diagnosis was determined through semi-structured clinical interview, which showed that 23% of the sample met criteria for BPD.
Findings suggest a relationship between borderline traits and "hypermentalizing" (excessive, inaccurate mentalizing) independent of age, gender, externalizing, internalizing and psychopathy symptoms. The relation between hypermentalizing and BPD traits was partially mediated by difficulties in emotion regulation, accounting for 43.5% of the hypermentalizing to BPD path.
Results suggest that in adolescents with borderline personality features the loss of mentalization is more apparent in the emergence of unusual alternative strategies (hypermentalizing) than in the loss of the capacity per se (no mentalizing or undermentalizing). Moreover, for the first time, empirical evidence is provided to support the notion that mentalizing exerts its influence on borderline traits through the mediating role of emotion dysregulation.

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