The Association between the Parent–Child Relationship and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: The Roles of Attachment and Perceived Spouse Attachment Behaviors


Parent-child relationship, anxiety, depression, attachment behaviors


Research shows that the parent–child relationship affects attachment security, which correlates with anxiety and depression in adulthood. Additional research shows that romantic attachment behaviors may supersede individual attachment security and buffer against negative processes. Using data from 680 married couples in the general population, we examined whether attachment mediates the link between the parent–child relationship and depressive and anxiety symptoms in adulthood. In addition, we tested whether perceived spouse attachment behaviors moderate the effects of attachment insecurity. There was an indirect effect of poor parent–child relationships on symptoms via insecure attachment. Perception of spouse's attachment behaviors was related to depression for both spouses, and they moderated the effect of attachment insecurity on depressive symptoms for husbands. Clinical implications are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Bradford, A.B., Burningham, K.L., Sandberg, J.G., & Johnson, L.N. (2017). The Association between the parent-child relationship and symptoms of anxiety and depression: The roles of attachment and perceived spouse attachment behaviors. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43(2), 291-307.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Marital and Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor