Quality of parenting and vulnerability to depression: results from a family study
Background. We examined a group of subjects at familial risk of depression and explored the relationship between the perceptions of parents and a history of depression. We also investigated: (a) whether any difference in perceived parenting found between those with and without a past history of depression was an artefact of the depression; and (b) whether the relationship between parenting and depression was explained by neuroticism.
Method. We took a sample of first-degree relatives selected from a family study in depression and subdivided them by their history of mental illness on the SADS-L, into those: (a) without a history of mental illness (N=43); and (b) those who had fully recovered from an episode of RDC major depression (N=34). We compared the perceptions of parenting, as measured by the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), in these two groups having adjusted for the effect of neuroticism and subsyndromal depressive symptoms. We also had informants report on parenting of their siblings, the latter being subdivided into those with and without a past history of depression.
Results. Relatives with a past history of depression showed lower care scores for both mother and father combined compared with the never ill relatives. The presence of a history of depression was associated with a non-significant reduction in the self-report care scores compared to the siblings report. Vulnerable personality (as measured by high neuroticism) and low perceived care were both found to exert independent effects in discriminating between the scores of relatives with and without a history of depression and there was no interaction between them.
Conclusion. This study confirmed that low perceived parental care was associated with a past history of depression, that it was not entirely an artefact of having been depressed, and suggested that this association was partially independent of neuroticism.
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Conor Duggan, University Department of Psychiatry, Duncan Macmillan House, Porchester Road, Nottingham NG3 6AA.