Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 2972–2986 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Parental Images and Intimate Relationships: A Northern Finland Sample

  • Annukka A. I. Kiviniemi
  • Hanna P. Heikkinen
  • Heli-Tuulie J. Koivumaa-Honkanen
  • Ole Wasz-Höckert
  • Leila K. Seitamo
  • Irma K. Moilanen
  • Hanna E. Ebeling
Original Paper


One of the most important components of the developmental environment is the emotional atmosphere. Childhood experiences and perceptions of parental roles and behavior result in memory models and images, which may affect the children’s relationships in adulthood. In the present study, the cross-sectional associations between childhood parental images and the quality of current intimate adult relationships were studied in a sub-study of a mother–child follow-up in northern Finland. The data were collected with a questionnaire mailed to 28–29-year-old adults, with a total of 337 replies. The present study included those respondents (N = 253) who were married or cohabiting (153 women, 100 men). Since offspring can be affected by gender-specific parenting patterns, the analyses were made separately for both genders. In women, supportiveness in both maternal and paternal images was associated with a balanced intimate relationship, the latter also being associated with a loving relationship and providing protection against quarrelsome and repressive–submissive aspects of the relationship. In men, maternal supportiveness was linked with a balanced and loving intimate relationship and protected against a quarrelsome relationship. Paternal domination was associated with repressive–submissive relationships regardless of gender. In conclusion, the qualities of recalled childhood parenting are important to adult well-being in intimate relationships in a gender-specific manner. The specific importance of the father to the children’s later life was also observed. This would indicate that supporting the relationship of the child with both parents is equally important for professionals working with children and families.


Gender differences Family-of-origin experiences Parent–child relationship Parental images Intimate relationship 



We are grateful to the Gyllenberg Foundation for grants to Hanna Ebeling and Annukka Kiviniemi, to the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and the Finnish Institute of Psychological Association and the Lisa Andström Foundation for grants to Annukka Kiviniemi. We would also like to thank Dr. Susanna Räinä MD, Ph.D., for her comments on the manuscript.


The Ethical Committee of the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District in Finland approved the study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annukka A. I. Kiviniemi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hanna P. Heikkinen
    • 3
  • Heli-Tuulie J. Koivumaa-Honkanen
    • 4
    • 5
  • Ole Wasz-Höckert
    • 2
  • Leila K. Seitamo
    • 2
  • Irma K. Moilanen
    • 2
    • 6
  • Hanna E. Ebeling
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.PEDEGO Research UnitUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.PEDEGO Research UnitChild Psychiatry, University of OuluOuluFinland
  3. 3.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  4. 4.Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  5. 5.Departments of PsychiatryUniversity Hospital of KuopioKuopioFinland
  6. 6.Clinic of Child PsychiatryOulu University HospitalOuluFinland

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