BACKGROUND: Various studies have reported a positive relationship between child maltreatment and personality disorders (PDs). However, few studies included all DSM-IV PDs and even fewer adjusted for other forms of childhood adversity, e.g. bullying or family problems.
METHOD: We analyzed questionnaires completed by 512 participants of the ZInEP epidemiology survey, a comprehensive psychiatric survey of the general population in Zurich, Switzerland. Associations between childhood adversity and PDs were analyzed bivariately via simple regression analyses and multivariately via multiple path analysis.
RESULTS: The bivariate analyses revealed that all PD dimensions were significantly related to various forms of family and school problems as well as child abuse. In contrast, according to the multivariate analysis only school problems and emotional abuse were associated with various PDs. Poverty was uniquely associated with schizotypal PD, conflicts with parents with obsessive-compulsive PD, physical abuse with antisocial PD, and physical neglect with narcissistic PD. Sexual abuse was statistically significantly associated with schizotypal and borderline PD, but corresponding effect sizes were small.
CONCLUSION: Childhood adversity has a serious impact on PDs. Bullying and violence in schools and emotional abuse appear to be more salient markers of general personality pathology than other forms of childhood adversity. Associations with sexual abuse were negligible when adjusted for other forms of adversity.