It is generally agreed that the quality of parenting experienced in childhood affects personality development and is related to the development of mental-health problems in adulthood. Because specific problems might be linked to differences in the quality of maternal and paternal bonding between parent and child this aspect of the parent-child relationship is of particular interest. Researchers in Canada used a three-factor model of child-rearing to look into the links between parental bonding and borderline personality disorder (BPD) and parental bonding and anorexia nervosa. The first factor was care - the presence or absence of behaviours reflecting affection, warmth, empathy, understanding and closeness. The second was protectiveness or denial of psychological autonomy which ranged from overprotective, infantilising and intrusive child rearing at one extreme to over-permisiveness at the other and the third was authoritarianism or denial of behavioural freedom characterised by lack of parental encouragement of the child's independent behaviour at one end of the scale and permission for the child to exercise age-appropriate autonomous behaviour at the other. The researchers looked at the participants' ratings of their parents' behaviour on these three factors and compared 35 women with BPD, 34 with anorexia and 33 with no mental-health problems. Women with BPD reported very low levels of biparental care and significantly more paternal denial of behavioural freedom. Those with anorexia experienced more maternal denial of behavioural freedom. In terms of maternal bonding, lack of maternal care was the only factor to predict BPD ; for paternal bonding a combination of father's lack of care and denial of behavioural freedom predicted BPD.
Laporte, Lise and Guttman, Herta - Recollections of parental bonding among women with borderline personality disorder as compared with women with anorexia nervosa and a control group. Australian Journal of Psychology December 2007, 59(3), 132-139