While borderline personality disorder is a well-established psychiatric
diagnosis, less is known about family functioning and interactional
patterns in subjects with the disorder. The authors describe interactional
patterns in families of borderline children where one parent has a severe
personality disorder and the other fails to protect the child adequately
against the effects of that psychopathology. Two types of parents are
described: the literal-minded parent and the borderline parent. The
literal-minded parent resembles an alexithymic patient, lacking the ability
to empathically understand and respond to the child's feelings and needs.
The borderline parent uses the child as the target of projections and
reality distortions. Therapy should mobilize the active protective
functions of the healthier parent.