Interplay between childhood maltreatment, parental bonding, and gender effects: impact on quality of life

Kobita Rikhye, Audrey R Tyrka, Megan M Kelly, Gerard G Gagne, Andrea F Mello, Marcelo F Mello, Lawrence H Price, Linda L Carpenter
Child Abuse & Neglect 2008, 32 (1): 19-34

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine associations between childhood adversity, parental bonding, gender, depressive symptoms, and quality of life in non-treatment-seeking adults from the community.

METHOD: Effects of differential parental rearing were compared in adults who reported a high degree of childhood maltreatment (n=72) and those who reported no significant adverse events in childhood (n=69). Subjects completed retrospective measures of childhood maltreatment and perceived parenting style, as well as measures of current depressive symptoms and quality of life.

RESULTS: The subjects without childhood maltreatment were younger and endorsed less current depressive symptomatology than did subjects with childhood maltreatment. While the subjects without a history of maltreatment reported more "optimal" bonding experiences with their parents, the maltreatment group members were more likely to characterize their early parental bonding experiences in terms of "affectionless control" (p<.001 for both maternal and paternal parenting), "affectionate constraint" (p=.025 for maternal parenting and p=.004 for paternal parenting), or "weak or absent" bonding (p<.001 for both maternal and paternal parenting). Results of a multiple regression analysis revealed that overall quality of paternal care (p=.015) and current level of depressive symptoms (p<.001) were significant independent predictors of adult quality of life. Gender effects between subjects providing parental bonding data were limited to the group with childhood maltreatment.

CONCLUSION: These findings extend previous work documenting a relationship between early life maltreatment and suboptimal parental bonding, suggesting gender-specific effects of maternal and paternal care. Effects of childhood maltreatment on quality of life in adulthood appear to be linked with the quality of childhood paternal care and the occurrence of depressive symptomatology in adulthood, suggesting possible targets for primary or secondary prevention.


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