Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 121–127 | Cite as

Cognitive Empathy Partially Mediates the Relationship between Childhood Physical Abuse and Borderline Personality Disorder Features in College Students

  • Ashley S. BujalskiEmail author
  • Megan S. Chesin
  • Elizabeth L. Jeglic


Among college students, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) features are prevalent and impairing. Different types of childhood maltreatment (CM) are associated with BPD features, though the type(s) of CM that is most robustly associated with BPD features and the mechanism by which CM leads to BPD features are not well-studied. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate which type(s) of CM was most robustly associated with BPD features and to test whether empathy, which is negatively correlated with CM, mediated the relationship between CM and BPD features in college students. Two thousand five hundred fifty-one undergraduate college students completed online self-report questionnaires measuring CM, empathy, and BPD features. A series of regression models were tested to explore relationships between types of CM and BPD features and CM, empathy and BPD features. Childhood physical abuse, but neither sexual abuse nor neglect, significantly predicted BPD features. Cognitive empathy partially mediated the relationship between childhood physical abuse and BPD features. These findings suggest childhood physical abuse is negatively associated with cognitive empathy, which in turn, is negatively associated with BPD features. Implications for treating BPD features in college students based on these findings are discussed.


Borderline personality disorder College students Empathy Childhood physical abuse 



This work was supported, in part, by funds from a Summer Stipend from the Research Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences at William Paterson University (WPU). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of WPU.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was supported, in part, by funds from a Summer Stipend from the Research Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences at William Paterson University (WPU). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of WPU.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley S. Bujalski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Megan S. Chesin
    • 2
  • Elizabeth L. Jeglic
    • 3
  1. 1.Clinical Psychology Doctoral StudentWilliam Paterson UniversityWayneUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWilliam Paterson UniversityWayneUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyJohn Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

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