May 20, 2006

Parenting and Personality Disorders

A fascinating article that no one will ever actually read: Parenting Behaviors Associated With Risk For Offspring Personality Disorder During Adulthood.


The authors made a (startling) discovery: there are types of parenting behaviors which predispose your kid to growing up personality disordered.


This was a longitudinal study of 592 families, first assessed when the kids were about 5, and then again when they were in their 30s.   (More info at their website


The results are pretty much what you'd expect: 






The more of these behaviors the parents exhibited, the more the risk of PD increased.   What is interesting is which PD was increased given the number of parental behaviors:


First, overall number of bad parental behaviors:

(antisocial=criminal; avoidant=shy; narcissistic=self-absorbed) 

Prevalence of PD vs. # parenting behaviors 


You'll notice that antisocial PD is essentially zero at baseline, and is dramatically sensitive to bad parenting.  Contrast this with avoidant PD, which, while also sensitive to the parenting, starts out higher at baseline.  In other words, you may be born shy, but not antisocial. 


Looking at specific types of bad parenting:







What you'll see in the top figure is that being an aversive parent is a great way of making someone borderline or passive-aggressive, not to mention paranoid.  But it doesn't make them antisocial.  Hmm.


Meanwhile, having low affection or low nurturing scores increased the risk for antisocial, as well as everything else (but especially avoidant, paranoid, depressive, borderline).  


Some covariate caveats: even when parental psychaitric disorders and  offspring behavioral problems at age 6 were controlled, bad parenting was still associatd with increased risk of their kids' PD. 


Furthermore, the usual association of parental psychiatric disorder leading to child PD could be explained, in fact, 95% due to the bad parenting.  Another way of saying this is that 95% of the effect that a parental psychiatric disorder has on causing their kids' personality disorder can be obviated by better parenting.  In a similar vein, 35% of the effect of childhood behavioral problems leading to later PD can be similarly reduced by better parenting.  In other words, even if you or your kids have a "biological" psychiatric disorder, better parenting skills can darmiatically affect the outcome.


It is not an insignificant fact that only one of the 5 authors was an MD (oddly, he is also a PhD but does not list this in the authorship line.).  The nature vs. nurture debate in psychiatry is all but dead.


The longer we delude ourselves that biology controls behavior, and not the other way around, the longer we'll have to live with the same behaviors. 


A fascinating article th... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2006 8:57 PM | Posted by spiritual_recovery: | Reply

A fascinating article that no one will ever actually read.

You're right, I didn't... yet. But I did read your blog post with great interest because I've also been reading some R. D. Laing. You may be aware that R.D. Laing became widely despised for suggesting that parents were responsible for their schizophrenic offspring. He wasn't talking genetics, he was talking environment. To speak of environmental causes of schizophrenia is taboo in today's culture wherein the disorder known as schizophrenia is purported to be entirely neurologically based. And yet... if we think about it, we know that people can be driven "crazy".

I say as much from the position of someone who has been through an acute schizophrenic break. I would say it was brought about by a number of factors, primarily environmental -- what I tend to sum up as "multiple losses as accompanied by trauma". I've written a related post titled How to Produce an Acute Schizophrenic Break should you (or any of your readers) wish to read it. The emphasis in that entry is not on biochemistry but I've no doubt that it plays a role -- after all, when doesn't biochemistry play a role in our lives? Everything from washing the dishes to hugging a loved one will produce a varied neurochemical response.

In truth, I think the "causes" of schizophrenia are multi-faceted. Environment, genetics, nutrition, personality, coping styles, neurology -- each and every one of these can play a role, but the extent to which they do will determine the outcome. There are different forms of "schizophrenia".

My own schizophrenic break occurred more than four years ago. Because I didn't know what I was going through at the time was considered as such, I didn't go to the hospital. Because I didn't go to the hospital, I didn't recieve any anti-psychotic medication -- during or since. Nor have I had any other kind of psychiatric medication or formal therapy. I have been working for three years, my relationships are all stable, my mental faculties appear to be intact. I am well. That recovery did take a great deal of time however -- among other things, I think my adrenal glands got fried -- and it did mean going through some very dark times. Nonetheless, because my "break" was affected so strongly by my environment, once I was able to move out of that environment I also began to heal.

To any parent out there with a schizophrenic child, please don't interpret this post as an attack on your parenting skills or integrity. Loving, caring parents do not make their kids "crazy", but distant, abusive, neglectful parents can. War, trauma, extremes of human experience -- these degrees of life experiences do carry repercussions. Let yourself off the hook if you didn't do those kind of things to your child.

For what it's worth, I had some very loving parents, but I also had a very abusive birth father and that small slice of my reality did play a role in my breakdown. So too did the mother who protected her children from him. I went "crazy" when she died and the buffer of her love was stripped from my life. In the aftermath of her death, I finally had to deal with the things I hadn't had to deal with before because she'd always been there to protect me from them. So, you see, it's not *just* about parents not doing the right thing.

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Wow, spiritual_recovery's c... (Below threshold)

May 11, 2007 8:58 AM | Posted by Thank you: | Reply

Wow, spiritual_recovery's comment was beautiful. i look forward to reading her links on her experience.

Admin, BTW, i did go to the link you have above for the article you reference here but i found no link there for the actual research just some "CONTEXT: Research has suggested that some types of parental child-rearing behavior may be associated with risk for offspring personality disorder (PD), ..."

I would like to read the whole research material.

What are some of the actual behaviors that parents made that showed to increase PD in their children?

I'd like to read more on this subject and the research around it.

How come these topics are not in schools?

I think you should make a text around Narcissism and Bordline that helps young people understand themselves and possible tendencies and their outcomes when they are out of balance. Or, at least develop some talks or educational videos on these topics of absolute PRIMAL importance to the betterment of our society.

Educational videos to help kids (and adults) understand ourselves and each other would utterly, and completely be a cause for change for the good in the world.

Absolutely. Please let me know if you have anything of this sort out there in regards to this.

I think you have a way with making all these topics palatable to a wide-spectrum of souls. That's a gift.

We need real psychological understanding in this world if there is going to be one... in the future.

Its the only way, I believe, that we can expect to actaully be willing "to be accountable"....

Why? Because sooo many don't know HOW to BE Accountable. Meaning, they are just TOO overwhelmed with the world and so many problems, including their own issues that stir in them and CAUSE the Narcissism and Borderline PD, etc.

UNDERSTANDING oneself and others is POWER, the GOOD kind. It gives people the ability to tap into an inner resource for answers and take action on the solutions one finds within.

Psychological Understanding is PARAMOUNT to the tool kit of solutions in our world today. We NEED this MORE than EVER.

I don't know about yesterday (as in the history and percentage of society having these problems in the past centuries as compared to our current time. Do you have stats on that??), but today these PDs seem to be everywhere. And, at a very destructive level -- destructive in so many ways -- seemingly subtle (relationships or lack there of) and the not-so-subtle (violence).


Are there any programs in schools to help with these issues? Anywhere? Waldorf? Montesorri? I know they'd be hard to find in public schools.

And the whole psychologist rampage on just being drug-prescribing morons (sooory)... who creates a curriculum that is conscious and actually has the ability to HELP awaken self-awareness and self-responsibility??

BTW2, is there any program for PhD in pyschology that you recommend???

Thanks AGAIN!


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