Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Resilience (Personality trait) in children, Children of the mentally ill-Psychology, Mentally ill parents-Psychological aspects, Mothers and daughters, Adult children, Borderline personality disorder, Autobiography-Women authors, Memoirs, Mothers-Mental health, Gwin, Minrose. Wishing for snow, Sonnenberg, Susanna, 1965- Her last death, Sexton, Linda Gray, 1953- Searching for Mercy Street


Much of the literature on BPD and children of parents with BPD focuses on the psychopathological tendencies of this population, specifically the high risk these children have of going on to have BPD as well. The purpose of this study is to better understand how children with BPD adapt and are resilient in ways that exclude them from developing BPD. Three memoirs written by daughters of mothers with BPD were selected based on APA criteria met by each mother for BPD and the daughter's ability to articulate and reflect on her experience with her mother from childhood to adulthood. These memoirs included Wishing for Snow (Gwin 2004), Her Last Death (Sonnenberg, 2008), and Searching for Mercy Street (Sexton, 1994). All daughters were biologically related to their mother, and did not meet the criteria for BPD at any point in their lives. The major findings described ways in which the passing down of BPD was impeded by the development of resilient traits. These traits included: first, the importance of writing one coherent narrative. Gaining control over her life story by processing and accessing emotions not otherwise named, daughters were able to find and put together all the pieces of her experience with her mother. Second, each daughter accepted the similarities she shared with her mother, but also clearly defined her differences allowing for the development of the daughter's separate sense of self. Third, each daughter connected with another person who provided a sense of stability allowing for the development of a secure sense of self. Finally, each daughter was empowered by the non-traditional female role her mother played in their family, which influenced the daughter to pursue non-traditional female roles in her adult life.




iv, 56 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass. 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 53-56)