Category: Criminal Justice / Forensics
Although borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are diagnostically distinct, they have considerable characteristic overlap and frequently co-occur (Becker, 2000). Problematic anger, irritability, and aggression are central components of both disorders; however, diverse forms of anger and related emotions may be experienced and regulated differently depending on the primary pathology. Yet, little research exists on these potential differences, including in forensic settings where BPD and ASPD are common (Fazel & Danesh, 2002; Black et al., 2007; Black, 2010). This study explored the relation between BPD features, ASPD features, and their interaction on expressed and controlled anger, and emotion regulation difficulties in a correctional sample receiving an anger management intervention.
Participants were 30 adult male inmates held in a correctional facility in Massachusetts. The majority of men were non-white (60%), and the mean age was 30. The sample scored above the 90th percentile for BPD, ASPD, and anger compared to community samples. Upon admission to the group intervention, inmates completed the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) for borderline and antisocial personalities, the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), and the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI). A series of stepwise linear regressions were conducted to assess the prediction of anger and emotion regulation difficulties from BPD features, ASPD features, and their interaction.
Preliminary results revealed that BPD features were positively associated with anger temperament, trait anger, inward expressed anger, and an overall anger index, after controlling for ASPD features (all ps < .05). ASPD features were not significantly associated with the anger variables, while controlling for BPD features. Again controlling for the other personality disorder features, having more BPD features was associated with greater nonacceptance of emotions, difficulties with impulse control, lack of regulation strategies, and overall emotion dysregulation (all ps ≤ .01), while having more ASPD features was associated with greater difficulties engaging in goal directed behavior (p < .01). There were no significant interaction effects of ASPD and BPD features on any of the anger and emotion variables (all ps > .05).
Although anger is an important diagnostic feature of both ASPD and BPD, the results suggest that experienced anger and emotion dysregulation may be more central components of BPD than of ASPD. Clinicians working with inmates with predominate BPD may consider prioritizing treating problematic anger and emotion dysregulation, while prioritizing prosocial behaviors in inmates with predominate ASPD.
Patrick McGonigal– Clinical Research Assistant, Brown University, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Katherine Dixon-Gordon– Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
Samantha Bernecker– University of Massachusetts Amherst
Michael Constantino– Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Clinical Research Assistant
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
University of Massachusetts Amherst