Objective — To asses the capacity of the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) to discriminate between normal subjects and clinical samples and between with different psychiatric diagnosis. Design — The present paper analyzes the studies published between 1979 and 1995, which have used the PBI in normal subjects and clinical samples and have reported the respective means and standard deviations obtained on the two PBI dimensions: affection and control. Multiple comparisons were carried out between the mean scores of affection and control of: 1) samples with the same psychiatric diagnosis (intragroup comparison); 2) samples with different psychiatric diagnoses (intergroup comparison); 3) normal subjects and clinical samples. Results — Of the 46 studies with normal and clinical subjects, 23 studies were selected for the analysis, reporting means and standard deviations and specifying the diagnostic criteria. Samples with the same psychiatric diagnosis had similar affection and control scores. With the exception of bipolar affective disorders and avoidant personality disorders, the prevalent parental style was for all diagnostic groups the affectionless control style. Within the affectionless control style, the PBI discriminated between panic attacks, borderline personality and drug addiction but not between schizophrenia, unipolar depression and anxiety disorder. The PBI discriminated also between normal subjects samples and samples with anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, personality disorder and drug addiction respectively. Conclusion — The results confirm previous suggestions from single studies that the perceived parental style as measured by the PBI can be considered a good predictor for the presence of psychiatric disorders excluding panic attacks, avoidant personality disorders and unipolar affective disorders. Although the different diagnostic groups do not differ in their perceived parental style (affectionless control), significant differences between some diagnostic groups within this category suggest that the PBI might have some specificity as well.