Studied empathy in 6 families of 27 women with borderline personality disorder (BPD), 28
women with restricting anorexia nervosa (AN, and 27 women without a clinical diagnosis (NC).
The daughters (aged between 16-40 yrs)and both parents responded to the Interpersonal
Reactivity Index (IRI), an instrument for assessing 4 dimensions of empathy. In addition, they
were personally interviewed, with the Family Interview for Protectiveness and Empathy (FIPE),
about the extent of empathy expressed by the parents to the daughter during her development. On
the IRI, women with BPD scored highest on the immature and lowest on the mature aspects of
empathy, whereas scores of AN and NC women were all within normal limits. Parents of BPDs had
the lowest IRI scores, while parents of AN and NC group were similar to each other and to
criterion group scores. IRI scores of AN daughters were positively correlated with their parents’
scores whereas BPDs’ scores were negatively correlated with those of their parents. There were
no correlations beween the IRI scores of NC subjects and heir parents. On the FIPE, borderline
daughters and parents agreed about the relative absence of empathic parenting, whereas AN and
NC daughters and parents agreed as to the presence of empathic parenting.