At least two leading developmental models of borderline personality disorder (BPD) emphasize the role of accurate reflection and understanding of internal states as significant to the development of BPD features (Fonagy, Int J Psycho-Anal 72:639-656, 1991; Linehan, Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder, 1993). The current study used the construct of experiential avoidance (EA) to operationalize avoidance of internal states and sought to examine (1) the concurrent relations between EA and borderline features in a large and diverse community sample; and (2) the prospective relation between EA and borderline features over a 1-year follow-up, controlling for baseline levels of borderline features. N = 881 adolescents recruited from public schools in a large metropolitan area participated in baseline assessments and N = 730 completed follow-up assessments. Two main findings were reported. First, EA was associated with borderline features, depressive, and anxiety symptoms at the bivariate level, but when all variables were considered together, depression and anxiety no longer remained significantly associated with borderline features, suggesting that the relations among these symptom clusters may be accounted for by EA as a cross-cutting underlying psychological process. Second, EA predicted levels of borderline symptoms at 1-year follow-up, controlling for baseline levels of borderline symptoms, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Results are interpreted against the background of developmental theories of borderline personality disorder.
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