Students who recalled “optimal maternal bonding”, defined by a high level of maternal care and low level of maternal control  indicated having intimate relationships in adulthood that were of significantly higher quality than students who recalled “affectionless maternal control”, defined by a low level of maternal care and high level of maternal control . High levels of maternal empathy, closeness, emotional warmth, and low levels of overprotection, intrusion, excessive contact, control, and infantilization were related to an intimate relationship of high quality, defined by a high level of complementary emotional needs for both partners in order to guarantee a feeling of security, a sense of togetherness and mutual esteem for appreciation of one another, a higher level of self-esteem, independence, a high level of security within the partnership and high autonomy exhibited by both partners.
This result is in accordance with previously reported research findings showing that the perception of poor childhood support was related to lower sociability scores and a recalled lack of satisfactory peer relationships among students , that care scales (PBI) were associated with measures of social support made at the same time in a student group and that maternal care was also correlated with social satisfaction made one and a half years later , and that low levels of childhood care from both mothers and fathers were related to low levels of perceived social support among medical students . Associations between parent–child bonding and later social bonding were rather found among those individuals who are psychologically well. However, these studies did not specifically investigate intimate adult relationships but rather social relationships in general. Some studies reported a lack of evidence to support the developmental continuity of social relationships (early and later ones) [28,29,30,31], especially for patients with a psychiatric disorder.
Moreover this result seems to support the hypothesis of continuity of the development of social relationships among psychologically well individuals on the basis of the association between maternal bonding and later intimate relationships. According to Bowlby [1,2,3] early bonding and attachment experiences are mentally represented as “internal working models” which influence the course of later social relationships. Children internalize experiences with caretakers in such a way that early attachment relationships come to form a prototype for later relationships. Different patterns of attachment reflect a child’s different expectations or internal working models of the social world. Internal working models include expectations about the caregiver’s availability, the infant’s own worthiness and ability to obtain care, and social relationships in general. Experiences of reliable and responsive care will lead to a model of the caregiver as available, of the self as worthy of care and effective in obtaining it, and of social relationships as pleasurable and rewarding .
Security of attachment is thought to be important due to its implications for later development [1,2,3]. Securely attached infants seem to be more socially competent, they tend to be more cooperative and obedient, they have better relations with their peers [33, 34] and they are less likely to develop emotional or behavior problems . Children with secure attachment spend less time alone, less time with counselors, and more time with other children than do youngsters who had been attached insecurely as infants and toddler. Furthermore, they spend more time in groups of same-gender peers  and show more positive and less negative child–friend interactions . They are less often ridiculed or excluded from group activities in middle childhood . They tend to choose each other as friends, their friendships are likely to be reciprocal rather than one-sided, and a close friendship among secure children does not prevent them from functioning in the larger peer group. They often spend time together in groups, and their play together also includes other children . Parental support, warmth, and authoritativeness are also connected with positive outcomes in adolescents .
Studies considering associations between early socialization experiences, quality of intimate relationships and mental health in adulthood concluded that the quality of current attachments might buffer the negative impact of low parental care on mental health . Gittleman et al.  reported that adult attachment styles had few mediating effects on the association of parental bonding behavior and adult mental health. Interactions between the fearful style, parental care and control seem to accentuate the effect of high parental care or low parental control on mental health in both men and women. The secure adult relationship style seems to moderate somewhat the negative impact of high parental control in women.
The current study also analyzed the associations between early socialization experiences, defined as the combination of maternal care and control; adult intimate relationship, as reflected by the quantity and quality of interest exhibited by the partners for one another, security within the partnership as well as partner autonomy; and quality of life, whereby adult relationship could possibly moderate the effect of maternal bonding on quality of life. If a healthy adult intimate relationship compensates the effect of a negative maternal bonding type on quality of life, there should not be any differences between the two groups “optimal maternal bonding/sound intimate relationship” and “affectionless maternal control/sound intimate relationship” with respect to quality of life. However, in the present study, a healthy intimate relationship in adulthood did not appear to buffer the impact of recalled maternal bonding behavior characterized by a low level of care and high level of control, which Parker et al.  conceptualized as “affectionless control”, on the quality of life. Students who recalled an “optimal maternal bonding” and described their intimate relationship as being sound showed a significantly lower reduction of their quality of life on dimensions of pain and discomfort, sleep and rest, energy and fatigue, and higher values on parameters measuring positive feelings, thinking, learning, memory and concentration, self-esteem, bodily image and appearance, personal relationships, social support, sexual activity, freedom, physical safety and security than students with recalled maternal affectionless control and a healthy intimate relationship.
Gittleman et al.  found mediating and moderating effects in their study. The effect of maternal care on depression among women was mediated by the security of their closest relationships. Men and women with secure adult relationship styles showed low levels of distress regardless of levels of parental bonding behavior. Parental control among men or low parental care in combination with a fearful style were related to increased psychological distress. However, they also reported that while the fearful style was associated with higher levels of distress independent of recalled parental control, high levels of control, especially maternal control, were related to increased depression and anxiety among women with secure styles, although these levels never rose to the scores exhibited by those with fearful styles. Gittleman et al.  concluded that both continuity and discontinuity principles can be applied to the understanding of associations between early experiences with parents, adult relationships and mental health, and they suggested that it seemed to be more fruitful to consider the circumstances in which each applies rather than considering continuity and discontinuity as opposing hypotheses.
The results of the current study suggest support for the continuity hypothesis and show no buffer effect of a high quality intimate relationship in adulthood on the association of early maternal care and control and quality of life among psychologically well individuals. In short, the special circumstances in the present study were the effects social bonds had on both quality of life, instead of mental health as found in other studies, and on intimate adult relationships among psychological well individuals, instead of social support in general as determined in other studies.
Bowlby [42, p. 9] pointed out: “… I believe there is already sufficient evidence, […], that points to the very substantial influence on personality development and mental health of the way an individual’s parents (or in some cases parent substitutes) treat him or her”. In this context it seems that early childhood experiences of high-quality bonding do not only have an impact on personality development and mental health but also on the basic quality of life.
Nevertheless, some potential limitations of the current study concerning the sample must be taken into consideration. Participants were students, mostly psychology students, with a mean age of approximately 25 years. The selection of included subjects might have hand an influence on the outcome of the study. Psychology students might for example have higher interest in social interactions than the general population or show higher values of selflessness due to their biography. Both factors could have an impact on intimate relationships in adulthood. Furthermore, the age of the included subjects might indirectly influence the results because it can be assumed that many participants may not have experiences with very long-standing sound intimate relationships. The limited duration of sound adult intimate relationships might have influenced the results.