Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 47, Issue 11, pp 1707–1715 | Cite as

The effects of parent–child relationships on later life mental health status in two national birth cohorts

Original Paper

Abstract

Purpose

Abusive and neglectful parenting is an established determinant of adult mental illness, but longitudinal studies of the impact of less severe problems with parenting have yielded inconsistent findings. In the face of growing interest in mental health promotion, it is important to establish the impact of this potentially remediable risk factor.

Methods

Participants: 8,405 participants in the 1958 UK birth cohort study, and 5,058 in the 1970 birth cohort study Exposures: questionnaires relating to the quality of relationships with parents completed at age 16 years. Outcomes: 12-item General Health Questionnaire and the Malaise Inventory collected at age 42 years (1958 cohort) and 30 years (1970 cohort). Statistical methodology: logistic regression analyses adjusting for sex, social class and teenage mental health problems.

Results

1958 cohort: relationships with both mother and father predicted mental health problems in adulthood; increasingly poor relationships were associated with increasing mental health problems at age 42 years. 1970 cohort: positive items derived from the Parental Bonding Instrument predicted reduced risk of mental health problems; negative aspects predicted increased risk at age 30 years. Odds of mental health problems were increased between 20 and 80% in fully adjusted models.

Conclusions

Results support the hypothesis that problems with parent–child relationships that fall short of abuse and neglect play a part in determining adult mental health and suggest that interventions to support parenting now being implemented in many parts of the Western world may reduce the prevalence of mental illness in adulthood.

Keywords

Parenting Parent–child relationship Mental illness in adulthood Longitudinal study 

Notes

Conflict of interest

None.

References

  1. 1.
    Fryers T (2007) Children at Risk: childhood determinants of adult mental illness. Stakes, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Overbeek G, Vollebergh W, Meeus W, Graaf R, Engels R (2004) Young adults’ recollections of parental bonds. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 39:703–710PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Overbeek G, Have M, Vollebergh W, Graaf R (2007) Parental lack of care and overprotection. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 42:87–93PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Weich S, Patterson J, Shaw R, Stewart-Brown S (2009) Family relationships in childhood and common psychiatric disorders in later life: systematic review of prospective studies. Br J Psychiatry 194(5):392–398PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Heider D, Matschinger H, Bernert S, Alonso J, Angermeyer MC (2006) Relationship between parental bonding and mood disorder in six European countries. Psychiatry Res 143(1):89–98PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Heider D, Matschinger H, Bernert S, Alonso J, Brugha T, Bruffaerts R et al (2008) Adverse parenting as a risk factor in the occurrence of anxiety disorders. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 43:266–272PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wolchik SA, Sandler IN, Millsap RE, Plummer BA, Greene SM, Anderson ER et al (2002) Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 288(15):1874–1881PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Stewart-Brown SL, Fletcher L, Wadsworth ME (2005) Parent–child relationships and health problems in adulthood in three UK national birth cohort studies. Eur J Public Health 15(6):640–646PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rodgers B (1996) Reported parental behaviour and adult affective symptoms. Associations and moderating factors. Psychol Med 26(1):51–61PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Rodgers B, Pickles A, Power C, Collishaw S, Maughan B (1999) Validity of the Malaise Inventory in general population samples. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 34(6):333–341PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Stewart-Brown S, Shaw R (2004) The roots of social capital: relationships in the home during childhood and health in later life. In: Morgan A, Swann C (eds) Social capital for health: issues of definition, measurement and links to health. Health Development Agency, London, pp 157–86. http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/documents/socialcapital_issues.pdf
  12. 12.
    Goldberg D, Gater G, Sartorius N, Ustun T, Piccinelli M, Gureje O et al (1997) The validity of two versions of the GHQ in the WHO study of mental illness in general health care. Psychol Med 27:191–197PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    McGee R, Williams S, Silva PA (1986) An evaluation of the Malaise Inventory. J Psychosom Res 30(2):147–152PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Rutter M, Tizard J, Whitmore K (1970) Education, health and behaviour. Longmans, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Rodgers B, Pickles C, Power C, Collisham S, Maughan B (1999) Validity of the Malaise Inventory in general population samples. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 34(6):333–341PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Parker G (1990) The parental bonding instrument. A decade of research. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 25(6):281PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Jorm A, Dear K, Rodgers B, Christensen H (2003) Interaction between mother’s and father’s affection as a risk factor for anxiety and depression symptoms. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 38:173–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Stewart-Brown SL, Schrader AS (2010) Promoting the mental health of children and parents: evidence and outcomes for home and community based parenting support interventions. Report of Workpackage 2 of the DATAPREV Project. European Community 6th Framework Research ProgrammeSP5A-CT-2007-044145. http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3239/1/WRAP_Stewart_brown_DataPrev_final_12_03_10_AS__(2)_(2).pdf

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Z. Morgan
    • 1
  • T. Brugha
    • 1
  • T. Fryers
    • 1
  • S. Stewart-Brown
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical SchoolUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

Personalised recommendations