Doctorate in Clinical Psychology: Main Research Portfolio
: 1) A systematic review of controlled-trials for PTSD in maltreated children and adolescents; 2) Supporting transitions from child to adult mental health services: are we getting it right for young people? ; 3) Examining experiences of betrayal trauma and mental contamination in borderline personality disorder.

  • Rhiannon Bennett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Objective: Research suggests that the experience of betrayal may be an important dimension contributing to trauma-related distress. This study utilised a clinical sample in an attempt to replicate the association between betrayal trauma and borderline personality disorder (BPD) found by Kahler & Freyd (2009; 2012) whilst also examining the role of betrayal trauma age. Secondary aims examine whether mental contamination (MC) is relevant to individuals with BPD and explore the role of appraisals. Method: Using a cross-sectional design, 122 adults were recruited to one of three groups: BPD, clinical controls or non-clinical controls. Results: The BPD group reported a greater number of high and medium, but not low, betrayal traumas than controls and a greater number of childhood betrayal traumas. As predicted, MC scores were higher in the BPD group than controls. Using multiple regression, we found appraisals predicted BPD symptoms above cumulative betrayal trauma, with high betrayal trauma and appraisals the only significant predictors. Exploratory analyses were conducted to consider betrayal trauma characteristics. Appraisals, number of adulthood betrayal traumas, repeated adulthood betrayal trauma and number of childhood betrayal traumas significantly predicted BPD symptoms, with childhood betrayal trauma the largest predictor. Conclusions: Findings provide support for betrayal trauma theory highlighting that perpetrator closeness and age of betrayal may help explain the relationship between trauma and BPD. This emphasizes the need for future research to focus on the consequences of childhood interpersonal trauma for survivors. Future research is needed to understand the relationship between MC and BPD, however clinicians should consider MC when working with individuals who have experienced betrayal traumas.
Date of Award16 Sept 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJosie Millar (Supervisor), Rachel Hiller (Supervisor), Cara Davis (Supervisor) & Maria Loades (Supervisor)

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