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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition often associated with previous childhood adversity including maladaptive parenting. When becoming a parent themselves, mothers with BPD have difficulties with various parenting cognitions and practices, but unknown is whether they have appropriate knowledge of sensitive parenting. This study explored whether differences in parenting knowledge or self-efficacy are specific to BPD or also found in mothers with depression, and whether symptom severity or specific diagnosis better explain parenting perceptions. Mothers with BPD (n = 26), depression (n = 25) or HCs (n = 25) completed a Q-sort parenting knowledge task and a parenting self-efficacy questionnaire. Results showed mothers with BPD had the same knowledge of sensitive parenting behaviors as mothers with depression and healthy mothers. Self-reported parenting self-efficacy was lower in mothers with BPD and depression compared with healthy mothers, with symptom severity most strongly associated. A significant but low correlation was found between parenting self-efficacy and knowledge. Findings suggest that mothers with BPD and depression know what good parenting is but think they are not parenting well. Mental health difficulties are not associated with parenting knowledge, but symptom severity appears to be a common pathway to lower parenting self-efficacy. Future interventions should test whether reduction of symptom severity or positive parenting feedback could improve parenting self-efficacy.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Psychopathol

Publication Date



1 - 12


Borderline personality disorder, Q-sort method, knowledge, parenting, self-efficacy