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Parental practices predict psychological well-being in midlife: life-course associations among women in the 1946 British birth cohort

  • F. A. Huppert (a1), R. A. Abbott (a1), G. B. Ploubidis (a1), M. Richards (a2) and D. Kuh (a2)...

Certain parenting styles are influential in the emergence of later mental health problems, but less is known about the relationship between parenting style and later psychological well-being. Our aim was to examine the association between well-being in midlife and parental behaviour during childhood and adolescence, and the role of personality as a possible mediator of this relationship.


Data from 984 women in the 1946 British birth cohort study were analysed using structural equation modelling. Psychological well-being was assessed at age 52 years using Ryff's scales of psychological well-being. Parenting practices were recollected at age 43 years using the Parental Bonding Instrument. Extraversion and neuroticism were assessed at age 26 years using the Maudsley Personality Inventory.


In this sample, three parenting style factors were identified: care; non-engagement; control. Higher levels of parental care were associated with higher psychological well-being, while higher parental non-engagement or control were associated with lower levels of psychological well-being. The effects of care and non-engagement were largely mediated by the offspring's personality, whereas control had direct effects on psychological well-being. The psychological well-being of adult women was at least as strongly linked to the parenting style of their fathers as to that of their mothers, particularly in relation to the adverse effects of non-engagement and control.


This study used a prospective longitudinal design to examine the effects of parenting practices on psychological well-being in midlife. The effects of parenting, both positive and negative, persisted well into mid-adulthood.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor Felicia A. Huppert, University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry, Box 189, Addenbrooke's Hospital, CambridgeCB2 2QQ, UK (Email:
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