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Does Harm Avoidance mediate effects of recollected parental bonding on mental distress in adulthood?

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BACKGROUND: Adverse early life conditions such as perceived low quality of parental bonding increase vulnerability to stress and psychopathology in adulthood. However, the mechanisms by which perceptions of parental bonding translate into vulnerability are unclear and remain sparsely investigated in healthy populations. We proposed a model, in which the personality trait Harm Avoidance would mediate effects of recollected parental bonding during the first sixteen years of life on measures of perceived stress and mental distress severity in adulthood.

METHOD: Five-hundred-eighteen adults (65.1 % women), aged 18-53years, completed questionnaires of parental bonding, perceived stress, trait Harm Avoidance, and severity of mental distress. Direct and indirect effects mediated through trait Harm Avoidance were examined in a structural equation model.

RESULTS: Under the causal assumptions of our proposed model, indirect effects of trait Harm Avoidance mediated the relationship between parental overprotection and severity of mental distress, while significantly attenuating the direct effects of parental care on severity of mental distress. Moreover, indirect effects of trait Harm Avoidance significantly attenuated the direct effects of parental overprotection and care on perceived stress.

CONCLUSION: In this large sample of mentally healthy adults, recollected parental bonding was significantly associated with levels of perceived stress and severity of mental distress. The results from our proposed model further suggest that trait Harm Avoidance may be a developmental link, by which the quality of recollected parental bonding in childhood translates into adult vulnerability to stress and mental distress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Volume55
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1007-14
Number of pages8
ISSN0010-440X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

ID: 44891624