BPD Parenting Types and Their Affects on Children
When discussing BPD parents it is important to note that the extreme examples in this article are reflective of individuals who do not recognize their behavior as disruptive. They are unaware of their experience of BPD and how they are passing maladaptive behaviors on to their children.
When we step back and look at their behavior as maladaptive patterns and traits we often separate the individual from the disorder. This “stepping back” can look clinical or cruel, but in identifying these patterns of behavior we can see the implicit and explicit effects they have on others.
The language used in this article is meant to identity patterns of parenting behavior that lead to disruption in their children’s ability to function as a whole adult.
Why Understanding Parenting Types is Important
Parenting types are a large part of who we are and who we ultimately become, and the long term effects of any parenting style is important to understand. Children that have a parent(s) who experiences BPD can develop depression, anxiety, PTSD, or BPD themselves (not always, as these styles don’t apply to every single parent with BPD.)
We need to know our roots to know ourselves.
The Four Types of Abusive BPD Parents:
James Masterson (1988) classified 4 types of Borderline Mothers. Recent understanding of BPD now includes men in these types. I’m dropping the word “mothers” for the word “parent.” Note: Not every parent who has BPD will fall into these groups. These types are generally applied to severe cases in which parent is in denial or does not know they have BPD. I’m including this to help provide some answers or give solace to people who have/had abusive parents.
- The Waif Parent:
– Helplessness “victim mentality.”
– Often falls into periods of deep despair.
– Low self esteem.
– Sees self as failure.
– Abandonment of any kind sets off underlying rage.
– Ranges back and forth between over involvement to under involvement with children.
Possible effects on children: Children may see themselves as failures for not being able to make parent(s) happy; may adopt being despairing themselves; enmeshed relationship with parent(s) that’s hard to break away from.
- The Hermit Parent:
- Negative view of the world and the people in it.
- Prone to bouts of rage and paranoia.
- See signs of collapse in every little thing.
- Tough exterior used to cover deep feelings of shame; which may be projected onto others.
- Distrustful and insecure.
- Gain self-esteem from work or hobbies.
Possible effects on children: May pick up parents’ worldview making adapting to new situations difficult; may also have a hard time developing healthy coping skills and trusting others.
- The Royalty Parent:
- Incessant need for attention
- Look toward their children to provide meaning to their lives; often results in the parent “living through” the child.
- No tolerance for disagreement/criticism at any time from children (seen as “evidence” that the children do not love or respect them.)
- Powerful sense of entitlement.
- Children are expected to be their audience and are demanded to constantly fuel their incredibly fragile self-esteem.
- Parent’s needs outweigh their children’s needs.
Possible effects on children: Due to the impossibility of satisfying their parent’s emotional needs turmoil increases between parents and children. Acting out, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, anger, and particularly deep confusion of emotions are common responses to this kind of parenting. Beneath these behaviors, these children long for approval and reassurance, along with consistency and unconditional love.
- The Evil Parent:
- Totally consumed with self-hatred and rage, which they are often unaware of.
- Incredibly hostile to their children.
- Often are cruel to those less powerful than them, particularly their children.
- Totally devoid of any kind of self-awareness and have little to no regard for other people.
- They often will respond to criticism with harsh, vindictive, venomous words.
- Are extremely hard to treat because they do not see their actions as being the. problem (outburst are caused by outside influences) and rarely ask others for help.
Possible effects on children: children are subjected to random, cruel, intense attacks. As with any kind of abuse, these children internalize the shame and believe it’s their fault. These children often become incredibly depressed, insecure, hyper-vigilant, and experience dissociative states.
Once they reach adulthood, these children may develop severe problems with relationships, specifically maintaining them (on again/off again boyfriends/girlfriends are one example.) Are at a greater risk for developing PTSD or BPD.
How These Parent Types Affect Children
As a whole, children who grow up with any of the above parenting types often have what’s called “disorganized attachment” which leads to instability in relationships. They may also develop stress intolerance, make executive decisions on impulse, and can sometimes be more controlling in relationships.
Some individuals may develop dissociative behaviors, issues with emotion regulation, tend to externalize their feelings and behavior more often, and are at an increased risk for developing psychopathy.
Not all children with BPD parents go onto to develop maladaptive behaviors.
With proper therapy, many achieve what’s called “earned, secure attachment.” Developing earned secure attachment is obtained by coming to terms with childhood experiences and making sense of the impact the past has on both the present and future.
Parenting Skills as a Cycle of Abuse and Codependence
Codependency is a pattern of compulsive behaviors that seek to gain approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity. Codependent parenting relationships are dysfunctional because it asks the child to support, or enable, the parent’s maladaptive behaviors.
- Waif Parent. Very dependent on others, and often pass that relationship cycle onto their children.
- Hermit Parent. May grow up to be codependent because they internalize their parent’s constant feeling of imminent danger and look to others for assurance.
- Royal Parent. Can fall into codependent behaviors because they constantly seek approval from loved ones.
- Evil Parent. Often fall into codependent patterns because they have little to no coping skills and may never have had someone that was truly there for them, making it come out in relationships.
There are various forms of abuse children experience: emotional, physical, or sometimes both. (sexual abuse may be experienced, but I will not focus on it as it’s beyond my scope of competency.)
– Waif Parent. Often inflict emotional abuse by creating an environment in which their children feel they are not good enough. This happens by falling into deep pits of despair that nothing can bring them out of. Kids will try, fail, and internalize that shame and inadequacy.
– Hermit Parent. Prone to stints of rage and paranoia, this parent lashes out in verbal/emotional aggression or even sometimes physical abuse. Parents who fit the Hermit style also see the world as cruel and callous and can pass that sense of fear onto their children.
– Royal Parent. Their conditional acceptance is a form of emotional abuse. These parents are also prone to outbursts when they don’t get what they want, leaving the kids at risk for unpredictable bouts of anger, thinking they themselves caused it.
– Evil Parent. Employ different types of abuse often in random, cruel, and/or premeditated attacks. Kids grow up never feeling safe.
How to Improve Your Relationship with a Parent who has BPD
Stopping the Cycle:
For all types of parents with BPD, an important part of stopping the cycle is just acknowledging the cycle exists. Identify your and your parent’s roles and triggers will help reduce outbursts and attacks.
Practicing mindfulness (being in the present moment and realizing how our actions affect others, the consequences of those actions, and taking things as they come,) will help process toxic situations and help you evaluate how not to engage in them again.
Self forgiveness is just that- forgive yourself for all the past hurt and mistakes. Teaching your children proper coping skills and seeing yourself as a model for healthy behavior can help you stick to those healthy behavior patterns.
In extreme cases, and when possible, separating yourself entirely from your parent(s) may be the only way to halt the damage from progressing. Educating yourself on BPD will allow you to see maladaptive patterns of behavior and address them before they become too enmeshed into your daily life.
Being raised by one or more parents with BPD can create confusion and hinder our ability to be whole functioning adults. Learning how your parent’s behavior affects your worldview and your relationships is the first step in breaking the relationship cycle of abuse and dysfunction.