The relationships between childhood experience, measured by the PBI, and adult defence mechanisms, evaluated through the DMI, were examined in 114 subjects. There were modest but significant correlations between the primitive defences of ‘turning against others' and ‘projection’ on the one hand, and a lack of parental care, as experienced by the subjects, on the other. ‘Principalisation’ (e.g. intellectualisation, isolation and rationalisation) and ‘reversal’ (e.g. negation, reaction formation, denial and repression) were positively associated with parental care. These findings account for only a small portion of the variance but show that, as with certain personality traits, actual or perceived childhood experience contributes in a recognisable fashion to the patterns of adult defences and behaviour.