Depression and parental bonding: Cause, consequence, or genetic covariance?

Michael C. Neale, Ellen Walters, Andrew C. Heath, Ronald C. Kessler, Daniel Pérusse, Lindon J. Eaves, Kenneth S. Kendler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


It is shown how information on the direction of causation between variables may be obtained from a cross‐sectional study of pairs of relatives. This method is applied to the study of the relationship between ratings of parents' rearing style and depression in their offspring. Adult female twins ascertained from a population‐based registry in Virginia completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies ‐ Depression Scale (CESD) and a 7‐item short form of the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) about each of their parents. Two dimensions of parental behavior, overprotectiveness and coldness, were analyzed jointly with depression data in both genetic factor and directional genetic models. Models that specify ratings of parents as a cause of depression in the offspring fit the data significantly better than models that specify depression as a cause of ratings of parents. A still better fit is obtained with models that specify common genetic variance to depression and ratings, though causal models with error variance perform almost as well. In general, ratings of fathers show more genetic and less shared environmental variance than ratings of mothers, which might arise from more consistent treatment of offspring by mothers than by fathers. No effect of children eliciting parental rearing style was detected with these data. The relative merits of instrumental variable, longitudinal, and family approaches to testing causal models are discussed. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-522
Number of pages20
JournalGenetic Epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1994


  • CESD
  • Mx
  • Parker
  • bonding
  • causation
  • coldness
  • depression
  • design
  • environment
  • genes
  • instrumental variable
  • longitudinal
  • methodology
  • overprotectiveness
  • parents
  • psychiatry
  • ratings
  • structural equation modeling
  • twins


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