Background. Attachment theory posits links between early
experiences with parents, adult
relationships and adult mental health, but does not specify whether these
mediating, or moderating effects.
Methods. Associations of parent's behaviour on the Parental
Bonding Instrument, adult attachment
styles and three dimensions of mental health were investigated in a large
sample of women and men.
Results. Men and women with secure styles recalled higher levels
of care from both parents than
those with fearful styles. Maternal and paternal control were more consistent
predictors of increased
distress for men than for women. Fearful and preoccupied adult styles were
associated with higher
levels of distress in both men and women. While adult styles had few mediating
effects on the
association of parental behaviour and mental health, interactions between
the fearful style and
parental variables suggested that this form of insecurity sometimes accentuated
the impact of high
parental care or low paternal control on mental health in both men and
women; among women,
however, the secure style seemed to buffer somewhat the negative effect
of high parental control.
Conclusion. Although the amount of variance explained by either
parental behaviour or adult styles
was modest, patterns of moderating effects of adult styles on associations
behaviour and mental health suggested that both continuity and discontinuity
principles can be
applied to understanding these links.