Rejection sensitivity (RS) refers to the cognitive-affective processing disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely react to cues of interpersonal rejection (Downey et al., 2004). The developmental model of rejection sensitivity suggests that rejection experience is a disadvantaged environment during the growth process of individuals with borderline personality disorder. Also, forming and maintaining stable interpersonal relationships is human motivation and the basis of physical and mental health. Social rejection is considered as an important negative event in social situations and can be used to measure individual adaption (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Compared with borderline personality disorder, individuals with higher borderline personality features are more universal in our daily life and inclined to perceive rejection and exclusion, which includes marked instability on emotion, interpersonal functioning, identity, and behavior impulsivity (APA, 2013).
Previous studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality disorder or borderline personality features, which is related to tense and negative interpersonal relationship patterns, negative emotional experience, and so on (Ayduk et al., 2008; Hidalgo et al., 2016; Masland, 2016; Staebler et al., 2011), but the results of those previous empirical studies regarding the relationship between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features are quite different and relatively wide (de Panfilis et al., 2016; Dixon-Gordon et al., 2013; Lazarus et al., 2018). The wide range of correlation coefficients from previous studies may be caused by other potential influencing factors, which should be fully discussed at present (Cavicchioli & Maffei, 2019; Foxhall et al., 2019; Gao et al., 2017). For example, the correlation may be stronger in more immersive laboratory studies than in questionnaires based on imagined situations, when rejection sensitivity is measured (Berenson et al., 2009; Downey & Feldman, 1996; Williams et al., 2007; Wrege et al., 2019); individualism emphasizes that people make friends with more independent choices and pays more attention to personal interests, while collectivist cultures value interpersonal relationships, which may have a stronger correlation (Chen et al., 2018; Falk et al., 2009). Therefore, the present meta-analysis study aims to examine potential factors related to the association between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features, which helps to avoid sample heterogeneity and get more precise and unique results.
As mentioned above, the current study aimed at integrating the results of existing research and examining the possible factors related to the relationship between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features through the meta-analysis. Fifty original journal articles that met the inclusion/exclusion requirements were included, including 84 effect sizes, and 7, 400 participants. The homogeneity test indicated heterogeneity of effect sizes. Therefore, we used subgroup analysis and meta-regression to explore how different types of study design, source of the sample, sample type, indices of borderline personality features, and type of rejection sensitivity measurement affect this relationship. The results revealed that (1) the relationship between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features was the strongest in the subgroup of the cross-sectional design, non-European and American samples, mixed subject samples, overall borderline personality feature, and rejection sensitivity measured by questionnaires; (2) participants’ age and the proportion of female participants did not have the significant effect to this relationship in the subgroup with large sample size, namely the cross-sectional design, European and American samples, overall borderline personality feature, and rejection sensitivity measured by questionnaires. This is the first meta-analysis to systematically explore how the underlying moderators have the effect of the relationship between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features, which will advance research in this field. In the future, researchers should pay more attention to explore the predictive relationship between rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features through longitudinal studies, investigate the relationship between different components of rejection sensitivity and borderline personality features, and conduct experiments studies to explore this relationship in China.