The roles of parental bonding and self-esteem in depression.
The research contained in this thesis was concerned with the parental care afforded to
children and the effect of that parenting on the child's self-concept in relation to the
aetiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). It was based upon psychoanalytic and
cognitive theories of depression, which implicate negative relationships with significant
others in childhood as of aetiological importance in MDD. Both schools also argue that this
link is mediated by negative self-beliefs which a child develops as a consequence of such
relationships. An attempt was made to identify, firstly, which aspects of parenting style are
associated with such depression and, secondly, whether low self-esteem acts as a
vulnerability factor for MDD. A measure of 'self-concept' was also created to test whether
the way in which an individual thinks about themselves occupies a distinct role in the
aetiology of MDD. A measure of neuroticism was taken in order to examine the role that
this personality characteristic plays in relation to parenting and self-esteem. The main
finding was that lack of maternal care was indirectly associated with MDD via 'selfconcept'
and self-esteem, with the former preceding the latter in a hypothesised temporal
order. A further indirect link was found between high levels of paternal overprotection and
depression; this link being mediated, firstly, by self-esteem and, secondly, by neuroticism. It
is suggested that there may be two separate routes to MDD and that these routes may be
based upon 'sociotropic' and 'autonomy' schemas. The main suggestion, however, is that
low levels of maternal care lead to the development of a sociotropic depressogenic schema
and that this schema represents a vulnerability to depression. It is suggested that this
schema will only lead to depression, however, if an individual experiences a schema relevant
negative life-event which lowers self-esteem and sets up a cyclical process culminating in
major depressive disorder.