To examine trajectories of adolescent borderline personality (BP) features in a normative-risk cohort ( n = 566) of Canadian children assessed at ages 13, 14, 15, and 16 and childhood predictors of trajectory group membership assessed at ages 8, 10, 11, and 12.
Data were drawn from the McMaster Teen Study, an on-going study examining relations among bullying, mental health, and academic achievement. Participants and their parents completed a battery of mental health and peer relations questionnaires at each wave of the study. Academic competence was assessed at age 8 (Grade 3). Latent class growth analysis, analysis of variance, and logistic regression were used to analyze the data.
Three distinct BP features trajectory groups were identified: elevated or rising, intermediate or stable, and low or stable. Parent- and child-reported mental health symptoms, peer relations risk factors, and intra-individual risk factors were significant predictors of elevated or rising and intermediate or stable trajectory groups. Child-reported attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and somatization symptoms uniquely predicted elevated or rising trajectory group membership, whereas parent-reported anxiety and child-reported ADHD symptoms uniquely predicted intermediate or stable trajectory group membership. Child-reported somatization symptoms was the only predictor to differentiate the intermediate or stable and elevated or rising trajectory groups (OR 1.15, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.28). Associations between child-reported reactive temperament and elevated BP features trajectory group membership were 10.23 times higher among children who were bullied, supporting a diathesis–stress pathway in the development of BP features for these youth.
Findings demonstrate the heterogeneous course of BP features in early adolescence and shed light on the potential prodromal course of later borderline personality disorder.