Category: Parenting / Families
Research has identified two distinct forms of parental control (i.e., behavioral and psychological) utilized to manage child behavior. Behavioral control refers to direct attempts to shape a child’s behavior without targeting personal characteristics and has been associated with positive outcomes (e.g., decreases in behavioral problems, less depressive symptoms). Psychological control refers to manipulating acts and/or invalidating experiences to exert control and is associated with negative outcomes (e.g., avoidant peer attachment and current depression). Although there has been some limited research that has explored how parental control is related to later depressive symptoms, the literature has failed to examine the possible mediating effects of behavioral and psychological control on parent-child attachment.
The present study aimed to examine how these two types of parental control experienced in childhood were related to later depressive symptoms, as well as the possible mediating effects of present attachment to a past caregiver. Participants included 348 college students (61.5% White, 74.1% female). Most participants reported retrospectively on a female caregiver (82.8%). Participants completed the Barber Parenting Scales, the Experiences of Close Relationships, and the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale.
There were significant positive correlations between parent’s psychological control and avoidant attachment (r = .464, p < .01), anxious attachment (r = .604, p < .01), and depressive symptoms (r = .394, p < .01). This indicates that more parental psychological control during childhood predicted higher endorsement of avoidant and anxious attachment, as well as more depressive symptoms. There were significant negative correlations between parent’s behavioral control and avoidant attachment (r = -.502, p < .01), anxious attachment (r = -.374, p < .01), and depression (r = -.225, p < .01). This suggests that the more parental behavioral control predicted less avoidant and anxious attachment, as well as less depressive symptoms. Multiple regression analyses ran suggests that past behavioral control influences depressive symptoms through insecure attachment styles, whereas past psychological control has a direct effect on later depression. Indirect bootstrap mediation models further supported these results.
These results have important implications as it demonstrates how, in comparison to behavioral control, psychological control during childhood negatively effects not only attachment, but later depressive symptoms. This is particularly troubling given the negative outcomes associated with depression. These results could further inform current treatments that work on modifying parenting behaviors and fostering a secure attachment.
Jessica VanOrmer– Graduate Student, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
Mallory Schneider– Graduate Student, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
Ashley Greathouse– University of South Alabama
Kimberly Zlomke– University of South Alabama, Alabama