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The stability of the Parental Bonding Instrument over a 20-year period



Background. The Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) measures the perception of being parented to the age of 16 years. Low scores on the care dimension and high scores on the overprotection dimension are considered to be risk factors of depression. While the PBI has been shown to be a reliable and valid instrument, the stability of the PBI over extended periods (taking into account individual characteristics and life experience) needs to be demonstrated.

Method. The PBI was measured in a non-clinical cohort on four waves between 1978 and 1998, along with a series of self-report measures including state depression and neuroticism. Differences in PBI change over time were examined by gender, lifetime major depression diagnosis, and life event variables, as well as by scores on neuroticism and state depression.

Results. Acceptable retest coefficients on PBI scores over the 20-year study were found for the cohort. No differences were found in PBI scores over time on the variables examined, including sex and depression measures.

Conclusions. The results indicate long-term stability of the PBI over time. The influences of mood state and life experience appear to have little effect on the stability of the perception of parenting as measured by the PBI. The present study increases confidence in the PBI as a valid measure of perceived parenting over extended time periods.


Corresponding author

Associate Professor Kay Wilhelm, Consultation Liaison Psychiatry, Level 4, DeLacy Building, St Vincent's Hospital, Victoria Street, Sydney, NSW, 2010, Australia. (Email:


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