Schema modes mediate the effect of emotional abuse in childhood on the differential expression of personality disorders

Yoki Mertens, Meltem Yilmaz, Jill Lobbestael*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is sound evidence that childhood maltreatment increases the likelihood of developing personality disorders (PDs). However, research on the possible mechanisms involved in the relationship between childhood maltreatment and PDs is scarce. One potential mediator of the maltreatment-PD relationship are schema modes, reflecting dynamic states of cognition, emotion, and behaviour.
Aims: The current study aimed to explore the mediating effect of schema modes on the asso- ciation between childhood maltreatment and the expression of Cluster B (borderline and anti- social) and C (avoidant and dependent) PDs.
Method: Within a mixed sample of N = 120 clinical PD patients and non-clinical participants, a multivariate path model including interview-assessed childhood maltreatment (emotional abuse, emotional neglect, sexual abuse, and physical abuse), schema modes (child, parent, coping and healthy modes), and borderline, antisocial, avoidant and dependent PDs was explored.
Results: The path model depicted five significant indirect links from emotional abuse on PDs via distinct schema modes. The impact of emotional abuse on borderline PD was mediated by child and coping modes, while parent modes mediated the link to antisocial PD. Healthy modes acted as a mediator on dependent and avoidant PDs.
Conclusions: The results indicate emotional abuse as a main predictor of schema mode clusters and emphasize the mediating role of schema modes on the maltreatment-related pathways to- wards PDs. Therapeutic implications are discussed with a special focus on healthy modes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104445
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse & Neglect
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Schema Modes
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Emotional abuse
  • Personality disorder
  • Structural Equation Modelling

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