Date of Conferral





Human Services


Sandra M. Harris


The effects that borderline personality disorder (BPD) can have on the loved ones of those who suffer from the mental illness is significant and can be deleterious and enduring. Maternal BPD can adversely impact mother-daughter relationships by fostering abnormal connections and insecure attachment bonds. This is particularly the case for African American mothers, of whom research suggests that the early attachment bond between them and their daughters significantly shapes how their daughters behave, perceive themselves, and relate to others. The purpose of this qualitative transcendental phenomenological study was to explore how the experiences of being raised by a mother diagnosed with BPD affected subsequent adult attachments for African American women. Principles from Bowlby’s attachment theory as well as Bartholomew and Horowitz’s four-category model of adult attachment served as the conceptual framework for this study. Purposeful sampling and snowball sampling were used to recruit 11 African American women with mothers having BPD. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and analyzed using Colaizzi’s method to determine emergent themes. Analysis of participants’ responses revealed that although they were capable of pursuing healthy attachments and had the ability to form positive views of close relationships, they mainly presented adult attachment orientations indicative of dismissive-avoidant and anxious-preoccupied insecure attachment styles. In addition to contributing to family studies research and psychiatric literature, this study can provide information that can help African American women understand how their early mother-daughter attachment experiences may have influenced their current patterns of attachment. The study findings may also be useful to clinicians in fostering more secure interpersonal relationship patterns in their African American female clients.