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Understanding the Borderline Mother

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Updated: April 30, 2007

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Understanding the Borderline Mother is a book for those whose mothers have borderline personality disorder. It aims to provide the children of BPs with insight into the effects of BPD on a mother's parenting and guidance in setting up healthy boundaries and relationships with their mothers.

  • Strives to organize extremely varied behaviors into four descriptive classifications.
  • Author has a real clinical understanding of both mothers with BPD and their children.
  • Focuses on the inherent mother-child relationship.
  • Honestly looks at all those involved in the family dynamic, including the fathers.
  • Gives clear, behavior-specific direction to children of BPs.
  • Often the examples given are extreme, and may alienate some readers.
  • Can be somewhat difficult to follow, as a great deal of information is packed into each chapter.
  • It can be unclear as to what makes an example fall under one classification as opposed to another.


  • Author: Christine Ann Lawson
  • Publisher: Jason Aronson
  • ISBN: 0765702886

Guide Review - Understanding the Borderline Mother

Christine Ann Lawson's book Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship, is an effort to help children of BP mothers gain a better understanding of how their mothers' illness impacted their lives as children, while giving realistic direction to respond to the emotional instability in a healthy, honest way.

Lawson identifies four classifications that describe borderline mothers: Waif, Hermit, Queen, and Witch. The book is structured to view BP mothers through one or more of these classifications.

The author spends much of the first half of the book describing each classification and giving anecdotal examples of the borderline behavior. The examples include stories from her practice as well as celebrities such as Joan Crawford, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Sylvia Plath, all carefully chosen to illustrate the internal thought processes and external symptom manifestations experienced by the BP.

The second half of the book is about the children, and how they are affected by the BP. She then gives specific guidance in helping the child establish healthy and appropriate boundaries in their interactions with the borderline mother.

Overall, this is an interesting and informative book. Lawson clearly connects how BPD and parenting intersect and create problems for both the child and the BP. However, alone these are complex and subjective topics; discussing them so comprehensively in one volume results in a somewhat confusing book to get through.

If a reader is relatively unfamiliar with borderline personality disorder, I would recommend first reading Stop Walking on Eggshells or Sometimes I Act Crazy, to gain a solid understanding of the disorder and how it can play out in relationships.

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