Lisa L. Hosack, PhD, LMSW

The relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and academic and interpersonal functioning among college students: Does religiosity moderate the effect?

The significantly negative effects of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are widely known among researchers and clinicians. Individuals with BPD struggle in many areas. College students with BPD have been found to particularly struggle in academic and interpersonal ways. Over the last few decades, religiosity has been examined as a moderator of the effects of BPD pathology on multiple outcomes, but at the time of this study the specific relationship of BPD and religiosity had not yet been empirically examined.

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between BPD and academic and interpersonal outcomes in college students, to examine the general relationship between BPD and religiosity, and finally, to determine if religiosity moderated the effects of academic and interpersonal outcomes among college students. MSU undergraduates were asked to complete an online survey comprised of several validated measures of BPD, normal personality, depression, anxiety, religiosity, interpersonal functioning, and academic functioning.

BPD was found to be inversely related to academic functioning, after controlling for Axis I psychopathology (clinical symptoms) and overall academic ability. BPD was also inversely related to interpersonal functioning within this population. Religiosity was defined as religious quest (RQ) and religious engagement (RE), with RQ significantly positively related to BPD. Finally, after controlling for Axis I psychopathology, religiosity was not found to moderate the negative effects of BPD upon interpersonal and academic outcomes.

The findings confirmed the negative effects of BPD, but also suggested a strong internal inclination toward religiosity among college students with BPD. Understanding and describing the particular role of religiosity and its potential in enhancing the lives of individuals with BPD is an important research goal which will require further empirical examination. That said, these findings confirmed the need for social work practitioners to conduct thorough spiritual assessments and to carefully consider religiosity as a potential resource in the lives of the individuals with whom they work.