IPT Book Reviews

Title: Role of Sexual Abuse in the Etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder  Positive Review
Editor: Mary C. Zanarini
Publisher: American Psychiatric Press, 1997

American Psychiatric Press
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Washington, DC 20005
(800) 368-5777
$40.00 (c)

The logical error of affirming the consequence has been widespread in the interpretation of alleged effects of sexual abuse to support and affirm the validity of allegations of prior abuse. It is acceptable to reason, "If P->Q," but it is error to then reason, "If Q->P." Nevertheless, reports, testimony, and various decisions are often made by reasoning that since a person shows symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, therefore there was prior sexual abuse and an allegation is true.

This 247-page book consisting of 12 chapters by different contributors brings together both data and a reasoned analysis of the diagnostic category of borderline personality disorder (BPD). The editor understands that sexual abuse is being suggested as the most important etiological factor for almost all problems women experience. After reading the contributions making up this volume, it will be clear that for some the development of BPD has no relationship to an experience of childhood abuse. There are others for whom the experience of childhood abuse contributes to their malaise. Finally, there are some for whom it may have been the major causal factor in the disorder.

Another benefit to reading this book will be a more systematic and sophisticated understanding of the nature and the process of psychiatric diagnosis. Given the widespread perception of psychiatric diagnosis as weak in validity and reliability, this outcome can be quite helpful. For those who want to understand more clearly the relationship between sexual abuse and long-term effects, this book offers a model for cogent and reasoned analysis of claims about the consequences of being sexually abused.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

Order this book: Hardcover

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