The global problem of child maltreatment

Child abuse and neglect negatively impact both neurological and psychological development. Patterns of abuse are learned and repeated in families. Adverse childhood experiences are a risk factor for psychopathology later in life, including borderline personality disorder (BPD). Borderline personality disorder is prevalent in clinical populations in the USA, but its prevalence has not been well documented in most other parts of the world. The aim of this paper is to explore the impact of culture upon the intergenerational transmission of childhood maltreatment and the clinical presentation of abused children. To facilitate this exploration, we will consider the cases of four adolescent girls in unique socioeconomic and cultural settings around the world: Liberia, El Salvador, India and a Congolese immigrant in France. Each of these girls endorsed some features of BPD, but only two met full criteria. In societies in which externalizing behaviors are not acceptable, children may internalize their distress or separate from their families. Defining BPD in terms of internal experience makes it more difficult to identify, but it would allow for the inclusion of cases in which symptoms may manifest differently while the underlying problem is similar.

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