The Influence of Childhood Abuse on Personality Disorder Development

Assignment Instructions

The following course outcome is assessed in this Assignment:
The purpose of this Assignment is to illustrate the influence of the environment on the development of personality disorders. More specifically, the hypotheses being examined are that a history of child abuse can lead to the development of a personality disorder and, secondly, that the type of abuse can determine the type of personality disorder formed. The Assignment looks specifically at three different personality disorders:

1. Antisocial Personality Disorder

Research has shown that many, if not most, individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder were seriously and repeatedly abused when they were children. Although they may have been abused sexually, most often they were abused physically in the form of beatings and other violence, as well as emotionally abused in the form of ridicule and humiliation. Typically, the abuser was a parent or guardian who had antisocial personality disorder.
Read the section of your book on Antisocial Personality Disorder and review its diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. For each of the seven criteria listed under Criterion A for Antisocial Personality Disorder, discuss how that particular criterion might have resulted from a history of being abused as a child. (Do not define what the criterion means but rather tie it back to a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.) Then, substantiate your opinion with an academic reference (so to provide empirical support for your theory). Consider each criterion, one at a time and be sure to provide an academic reference for each of the seven discussions.

2. Borderline Personality Disorder

Research has found that the majority of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder experienced abandonment or severe neglect as children. Because of this, Borderline Personality Disorder is sometimes referred to as the “abandonment syndrome.”
Read the section of your book on Borderline Personality Disorder and review its diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. For each of the nine criteria listed under Criterion A for Borderline Personality Disorder, discuss how that particular criterion might have resulted from a history of being abandoned or severely neglected as a child. (Do not define the criterion but rather tie it back to a history of abandonment or severe neglect.) Then, substantiate your opinion with an academic reference (so to provide empirical support for your theory). Consider each criterion, one at a time and be sure to provide an academic reference for each of the nine discussions.

3. Avoidant Personality Disorder

Research has demonstrated that many, if not most, individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder were humiliated and ridiculed as children from family members and/or peers. The humiliation may have occurred infrequently or frequently.
Read the section of your book on Avoidant Personality Disorder and review its diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. For each of the seven criteria listed under Criterion A for Avoidant Personality Disorder, discuss how that particular criterion might have resulted from a history of being humiliated or ridiculed as a child. Then, substantiate your opinion with an academic reference (so to provide empirical support for your theory). Consider each criterion, one at a time and be sure to provide an academic reference for each of the seven discussions

The Influence of Childhood Abuse on Personality Disorder Development – Sample Paper

Antisocial Personality Disorder

An antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a personality disorder associated with substantial impairment of an individual (Hesse, 2010). According to the author, the nature with which a child is brought up determines their personality. Children, who are brought up in abusive environment or by parents (s) who suffer from APD, are likely to develop the disorder. The DSM-5 has developed four criteria for use in diagnosis of APD. The first criterion is the violation of rights of others, which occurs at the age of 15. These factors can be attributed to the influence of history of abuse on the child.

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Non-conformity to social norms

This occurs with children who grow in an environment with low regard for social norms or in relational trauma. Such children may develop poor social skills, leading to social withdrawal. The structure of family and quality of child-parent relationships has a great influence on the development of the children (Gaik, Abdullah, Elias, & Uli, 2010). According to (Lansford et al., 2007), negative behaviors are often reinforced in children during their childhood, by caregivers, parents or peers.


Good behaviors are learned or reinforced in the course of child development. However, a child growing in abusive relationship is more likely to learn and reinforce other negative behaviors such as deceit in response to the abusive relationships. According to (Prather & Golden, 2009), children who are persistently victimized with lack of emotional support are likely to develop reactionary responses such as deceit to conceal their wrongs and avoid harsh punishments. Such children will grow with the knowledge that punishment can be avoided or any goal can be achieved through deceit.

Impulsivity or Failure to Plan Ahead

Poor parenting, such as neglect has a profound impact on the child’s development (Armstrong & Kelley, 2008). Impulsivity can develop as a result of inconsistent parenting, where parents fail to make follow ups, or provide rewards or consequences of the actions of children. Children who grow under the influence of such practices are more likely to show little regard for their actions. In contrast, inductive parenting has been shown to increase positive behavioral outcomes among children.

Irritability and Aggressiveness

When a child is subjected to harsh and neglectful parental interactions and harsh punishments, it creates lack of control over the environment, which is manifested later in form of anger and aggressiveness. According to (Lansford et al., 2007), children learn violent behaviors in their intimate social systems. Therefore children who undergo harsh punishments, lack of remorse, inconsistent parenting and poor interactions are more likely to develop aggressiveness.

Read also Strategies For Preventing Child Abuse

Reckless disregard for safety of oneself and others

According to (Black, 2013) bad behavior of the children can be attributed to neglect and abuse from parents. Parents in abusive relationships may subject children to abuse and injuries. For example, a mother who lives a child with his father because of the father’s anger or alcoholism, subjects such a child to neglect and abuse from the father. When a child develops in such a relationship, they are likely to develop a disregard for safety, which can be shown in reckless driving and having sex without protection.

Consistent irresponsibility

The way in which children are brought up determines the kind of behavior they will adopt when they grow up. Children who are exposed to erratic discipline and inadequate supervision can lead to lack of feeling of responsibility. Children become irresponsible if parents fail to provide guidance and advice on consequences of the actions, during their growth. According to (Armstrong & Kelley, 2008) children learn personality traits depending on how they are brought up. Children brought by irresponsible parents, who neglect their children, failing to provide guidance and consistent punishment, are likely to become irresponsible in life. This is manifested in form of inability to maintain job, or taking off without notice and if they are informed of their mistake, they leave such a job without concern of possible consequences on their financials.

            Lack of remorse

Abuse and neglect during young age deprive the child of the average expectable environment (Morizot & Kazemian, 2014). Young children exposed to abuse such as ridicule, chastity, beatings and exploitation such child labor, are more likely to be less remorseful and show no feelings of empathy. At young age, children must be protected, shown love, guided as this are fundamental in the development of capacities such as trust, self-control, empathy and perspective thinking.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the instability patterns of personal interrelationships, self-image, effects and impulsivity that begin in early childhood and present contexts (Hesse, 2010). The disorder is linked with abandonment or severe neglect in childhood.

Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

Children brought up in chaotic family and in environment where parents exercise neglect, abuse (no soothing) and traumatic separations can lead to development of feelings of abandonment among children as they grow. According to (Morizot & Kazemian, 2014) parental loss, abuses or traumatic separations are some of the childhood factors that contribute to fears of abandonment and dependency. When one parent dies and the other abuses the children with no concern, such a child can grow and develop pathological attitudes and projective identification.

Intense and unsuccessful personal relationships

Children learn how to love from their early childhood. The feeling of love and how children can express the same to their peers is dependent on the nature of affection from their parents. Abusive relationships in a marriage can affect children growth. Parents who often fight and show total disregard towards the feelings of their children often affect the growth of such children, which manifests in inability to initiate relationships or maintain existing one. According to (Morizot & Kazemian, 2014), a broken, frightening or confusing relationship in infancy (attachment) hinders the emotions and feelings of children, thus limiting their ability to built or maintain successful relationships.

Unstable self-image and disturbed understanding of own identity

Identity is developed through observation of own thoughts, feelings and emotions (Elzy, 2011). Inconsistent internal experiences that result from childhood abuse such as ridicule, sexual and physical abuse by the caregiver greatly influences how one views one-self. A child raised in chaotic or abusive relationship, and an invalidating environment, where they are taught that their feelings and emotions do not matter, are likely to develop unstable self-image.

Impulsive and potentially self-damaging behavior

A child brought up with neglect and exposure to abusive behavior from caregiver, such as sexual and physical abuses, is more likely to develop disregard for good behavior. According to (Elzy, 2011) as children grow, they expect caregivers to give them emotional support and a show of care and soothing. Parents or care givers can shape behavior of their children through supportive care, love and attachment.

Repeated suicidal behavior, statements of intent or threats or self-harm

The reason for self-harm or suicidal behaviors is a common way in which patients with BPD try to communicate their pain or anxiety. Children brought up in abusive environment where they are subjected to insecure attachment, hinders their self-development. Such children do not learn the ways of communicating their feelings and emotions. According to (Kerr, Muehlenkamp, & Turner, 2010), history of abusive parenting or caregiver who subjects child with insecure or traumatic attachment, impacts their mentalization, which leads to diminished capacity to representation of their thoughts and feelings and those of other people. Such children will show some form of attempted suicide or threats as a way of communicating their feelings and emotions.

Unstable moods

Poor childhood attachment, where children are not given enough social and emotional support hinders their emotional development. If a child is brought up by a parent or caregiver who shows no regard on how the child feels or tells them off or not to mind about their feelings, hinders how such children develop their emotional abilities. According to (Westbrook & Berenbaum, 2016), children who experience abandonment are deprived of social support and this lack capacity to develop resilient factors, which manifest in unstable moods.

Feelings of emptiness

Feelings of emptiness can arise of a patient with BPD had a history of childhood emotional neglect, harsh and unpredictable parenting or active invalidation during childhood. Children expect to be loved and when they cry or become angry, they need the parents or caregivers to show some love and concern for their feelings. However, continued neglect of their feelings or harsh parents who often invalidate their feelings and concerns, can lead to BPD. According to (Westbrook & Berenbaum, 2016), growing in a house that is blind to emotions, parents/caregivers who actively neglect child emotions, unpredictable selection, rejection and punishments of child’s emotions, hinders emotional developments of a kid and possible feelings of emptiness in future.

Inappropriate anger or problems managing anger

Childhood neglect or abuse leaves permanent scars on the life of a child. Emotional scarring that results from abuse and neglect causes a child to have troubles regulating their emotions. Children who are abused have difficulties expressing their emotions, which become stuffed down. According to (Elzy, 2011), early childhood abuse such as lashing out in anger and use of fear to control behavior severely affects emotional developments among the children. Such children can grow into adults who struggle with anxiety issues, depression and anger.

Passing feelings or episodes of paranoia, delusions or dissociative symptoms

This can result from intense childhood emotional abandonment, where the child is not giving emotional support, being told off and tasked with taking care of their own feelings as adults, can lead to poor emotional development. Such children when they grow can have flashbacks of their ordeals as kids, which can lead to panic and anxiety. According to (Westbrook & Berenbaum, 2016) intense emotional abandonment in childhood can create a severe trauma that can lead to paranoia.

Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD)

            The DSM-5 defines AvPD as a pervasive pattern that occurs over a period of time and situations, which starts in early childhood and is characterized by social inhibition, hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, feeling of inadequacy and indicated by at least four of the identified criteria (Eikenaes, Egeland, Hummelen & Wilberg, 2015).

Read also Personality Assessment

            Avoidance of occupational activities that involve significant personal contact

This can occur due to childhood experiences such as physical and emotional abuse. Caregivers or parents, who sexually abuse, neglect the emotions of children lead to development of poor emotional and social relationships in children. Some parents fail to listen to the emotions of children, neglecting to offer basic support and care, which leads to poor development of social abilities. According to (Rettew et al., 2003) emotional and sexual abuse makes such children develop fear and feel inferior to others. This can manifest itself in their inability to attend occupational activities that involve contact with people as they seek privacy and avoidance of ridicule or criticism.

              Unwillingness to get involved with people unless certain of being liked 

Children grow with dependence on the parents or caregivers for protection, nurture and food. Parents or caregivers play crucial role in shaping the social skills of children through helping to understand other people, who they feel and how they may perceive them and their actions. Poor parental guidance, often in form of neglect and abuse of child when they reveal their emotions, will hinder development of social skills. Such children can grow to develop fear of dislike of people due to uncertainty on how such people will perceive them. (Durand & Barlow, 2015) asserts that parents or caregivers are crucial in the development of self-esteem among children during their childhood. The authors point that emotional neglect and abuse often leads to development of poor social skills among children, which hinders their relationship with others in their adulthood.

Restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed

This can result from parenting where children are chastised, ridiculed and humiliated even in front of other people. Parents who show total disregard on the emotional and psychological impact of humiliation of their children often makes such children develop general fear and shame in from other people.    They criticize children and offer no emotional support whenever they or others hurt the emotions of the children. According to (Eikenaes, Hummelen, Abrahamsen, Andrea, & Wilberg, 2013), when a child is subject of frequent ridicule among his/her peers, with no support from parents or caregivers; they may grow with restrain and fear of shame or ridicule, thus developing restraint within relationships and peers.

Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations

Repeated negative experiences, such as ridicule, chastise and harsh criticism from caregivers, parents and peers can make children to feel inferior hindering their social interactions with family members and other social groups. (Eikenaes, Egeland, Hummelen & Wilberg, 2015) notes that childhood experiences become memories and people tend to makes flashback into their early encounters. Children who grow under poor social environment can potentially grow into adults whose life are preoccupied by feelings of criticisms or rejections owing to their earlier parental or peer mistreatments.

Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy

The feelings of inadequacy can occur in children whose backgrounds are characterized by parents who showed no care to make them feel loved. Parents can also promote development of feeling of inadequacy through show of little regard for the abilities of their children, often criticizing them for their failures while also drawing comparisons with those of superior peers instead of helping them improve on their children abilities. According to (Durand & Barlow, 2015) poor parental care during childhood, who demand perfection while criticizing failures can lead to children growing into adults who exercise extreme cautiousness, which is shown by feeling that others are superior, more successful and smarter, hence feelings of inadequacy. Such people often withhold information that could lead to being respected or liked by others. However, owing to their negative self-evaluations, they prevent others from liking and respecting them.

Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others

This is common in children who grew in environment that offered total disregard for the abilities. Lack of appreciation or recognition of the efforts from parents, little or no emotional support on achievements or failures can lead to poor personal perceptions from children. Parents or caregivers, who often make comparisons of their children incompetence with those of superior peers makes them, view themselves as generally inferior, potentially hindering their social abilities. (Durand & Barlow, 2015) asserts that poor and negligent childhood can adversely affect the abilities of children to develop social abilities and their self-perception. According to the authors, when children feel insecure about their abilities and worth due to inadequate parental love and guidance, such children can grow to be socially inept, feeling of unappealing and general inferiority to others.

Is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

Children who are often embarrassed when they err or are ridiculed in from their peers or other people instead of being encouraged develop fears of trying new things. This can be seen even in their inabilities to initiate conversations or takes risks of raising issues for fear of embarrassment.  According to (Sanislow, Bartolini, & Zoloth, 2012) history of ridicule and humiliation creates a sense of defensive mechanisms among children as a way to avoid embarrassment, failure to take risks and perceived humiliation.

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