The purpose of this study was to compare the perceptions of the family in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to the perceptions of their parents and to those of normative families. We compared ratings on measures of family problems, environment, and relationships from a sample of 21 patients with BPD to ratings by their parents and to standardized ratings from normative families. The results were that (1) patients with BPD perceived their family environment and relationships significantly more negatively than did their parents or the normative families, and (2) parents of a patient with BPD agreed more with each other than with their offspring, with both parents often close to normative standards. We conclude that defensive reactions at the time of initial evaluation probably account for the frequently cited schism between BPD patients' particularly negative reports of their families and the more normative reports by their parents. Clinicians should obtain parental viewpoints as an essential part of evaluating the family environment.