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Psychol Med. 1996 Jan;26(1):63-77.

Reported parental behaviour and adult affective symptoms. 2. Mediating factors.

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  • 1NH&MRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Potential mediators of the modest association between retrospectively rated parental behaviour and adult affective symptoms in offspring were investigated in a national longitudinal study of a cohort followed to the age of 43. Personality measures from adolescence could account for a small part of this association. Personal relationships in adulthood were more strongly associated with both parental behaviour and symptoms: marital history, emotional support, social network and availability of help in a crisis. Poor parenting did not lead to a general vulnerability to later life events, and socio-economic status and financial hardship were not implicated in the link between parental behaviour and adult symptoms. However, parental affectionless control was associated with certain types of life stressors in adulthood, i.e. interpersonal as opposed to non-interpersonal life events. Collectively, aspects of personal relationships accounted for much of the elevated symptom levels in those rating parents as low on care or high on control. Findings were consistent with the notion that interpersonal competence is important in the continuity between childhood experience and adult mental health, but other possible interpretations are discussed.

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