An Ecological Momentary Assessment (Ema) Study of Affective Reactivity within an Interpersonal Context in Young Adults with Borderline (Bpd) Traits
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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious disorder associated with impairment across multiple domains of functioning and treatment refractory behavior. Affective reactivity is a particularly detrimental feature of BPD; however, there are limitations of using single time-point assessments to measure this symptom. Studies have therefore employed ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to measure real time affective reactivity in BPD, with findings pointing to greater affective reactivity in adults with BPD versus healthy controls. However, little is known regarding antecedents of within-person affect change in BPD. Moreover, while it has been suggested that affective reactivity in BPD occurs in reaction to interpersonal cues of rejection and abandonment, few studies have demonstrated this in the context of daily life. Interpersonal Theory, and the associated Interpersonal Circumplex, provides an empirically validated framework for this purpose. Using the Circumplex, it is possible to determine biases in person perception that may relate to affective reactivity. While Circumplex studies have examined the relation between biases in person perception and negative affect in BPD patients, Circumplex methodology has yet to be combined with electronic EMA methodology to elucidate antecedents or triggers of affective reactivity in healthy adults with BPD traits. Against this background, the overall goal of the proposed study was to examine the relation between perceptions of non-communal behavior and affective reactivity in a non-clinical sample of college students. To this end, N = 123 college students participated in twenty days of EMA during which they recorded their affective state, interpersonal perceptions, and their own interpersonal behavior six times a day. The aims for the current study were two-fold: Aim 1 was to examine whether perceptions of partner non-communal behavior and negative affect were related, and whether BPD symptoms moderated this relation. Aim 2 was to examine whether perceptions of partner non-communal behavior and participants’ self-reported non-communal behavior were related, and whether BPD symptoms moderated this relation. An ancillary aim was added to determine whether any of the PAI BOR subscales moderated the relation between perceptions of non-communality and negative affect or self-reported non-communal behavior. In partial support of our hypotheses for Aim 1, results showed that perceptions of partner non-communal behavior predicted higher ratings of negative affect at the within-person levels. However, at the between-person level these relations were not significant, and BPD symptoms had no moderating effect. In partial support of our hypotheses for Aim 2, at the within-person level, perceptions of partner non-communal behavior were associated with participants own non-communal (ie. cold) behavior. However, at the between-person level these relations were not significant, and BPD symptoms had no moderating effect. Secondary analyses revealed a trend of the PAI-BOR subscale of identity problems moderating the relation between perceptions of non-communal behavior and participants’ self-reported non-communal behavior; however, the moderating effect was not statistically significant (p = .09). Findings from this study provide support for the relation between interpersonal perceptions and affective and interpersonal behavioral reactivity. Moreover, a potential (though non-significant) moderating effect of the PAI-BOR subscale of Identity Problems suggests a greater understanding of the role of identity-related disturbance in interpersonal perceptions, affect, and behavior in BPD is warranted.