The impact of childhood parental quality on mental health outcomes in older adults

R. A. Burns*, V. Loh, J. E. Byles, H. L. Kendig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Parental bonding is cited as a determinant of mental health outcomes in childhood, adolescence and early-mid adulthood. Examination of the long-term impact for older adults is limited. We therefore examine the long-term risk of perceived poor parental bonding on mental health across the lifespan and into early-old age. Methods: Participants (N = 1255) were aged 60–64 years of age and drawn from the Australian Life Histories and Health study. Quality of parental bonding was assessed with the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI). Self-reported history of doctors’ mental health diagnoses and current treatment for each participant was recorded. Current depression was assessed with the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression-8 (CESD-8). Due to known gender differences in mental health rates across the lifespan, analyses were stratified by sex. Results: A bi-factor analysis of the PBI in a structural equation framework indicated perceived Poor Parental Quality as a risk for both ever and current depression for both sexes. For males, Over-Protective Fathers were a risk for ever and current depression, whilst overall Poor Parental Quality was a risk for reporting current depression treatment. Whilst a number of the risks associated with current depression and treatment were attenuated when controlling for current mood, parental quality remained a significant risk for having reported a lifetime diagnosis for depression and anxiety for men. Conclusion: Our results extend the existing literature base and demonstrate that mental health risk attributed to poor perceived parental quality continues across the life-course and into early-old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-825
Number of pages7
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • parental quality
  • mental health
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • life-histories


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