Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Marina Bornovalova, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenton Wiernik, Ph.D.


sexual orientation, differential item functioning, personality pathology, NESARC-III


There is a robust, yet poorly understood relationship between non-heterosexual orientation and borderline personality disorder (BPD), with lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals evidencing greater BPD symptoms compared to heterosexual individuals. Recent evidence suggests possible bias in BPD diagnostic criteria leading to greater endorsement among sexual minority individuals, which hinders researchers’ ability to make valid group comparisons. The present study utilized an epidemiological sample of 35,995 men and women to evaluate the extent of differential item functioning (DIF) among BPD criteria across sexual orientation groups using a multiple indicators multiple causes (MIMIC) approach. All criteria except affective instability and emptiness indicated DIF for at least one sexual minority focal group, although those each demonstrated DIF in sensitivity analyses. DIF was largely nonuniform and although no clear pattern emerged across all models, DIF was most consistently indicated for suicidality, efforts to avoid abandonment, and impulsivity. Contrary to predictions, DIF was mostly nonuniform with greater item discrimination for focal groups compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Consistent with predictions, all DIF was explained by perceived minority stressors. Finally, all estimated effect sizes were small, suggesting that DIF was not practically meaningful and unlikely to impact the validity of group comparisons for BPD symptoms across heterosexual and non-heterosexual men and women.