“Sub-optimal Parenting is Associated with Schizotypic and Anxiety Personality Traits in Adulthood”


Researchers in Crete, London and New York find that measures of anxiety, schizotypy, alexithymia and other traits in a sample of 324 healthy males revealed associations with measures of “high maternal overprotection” and “low paternal care.” “In addition,” the study in European Psychiatry notes, “the Affectionless control group (low care/high overprotection) had higher “Schizotypy” and “Anxiety” compared with the Optimal Parenting group (high care/low overprotection). These results further validate sub-optimal parenting as an important environmental exposure and extend our understanding on the mechanisms by which it increases risk for psychiatric morbidity.”

Abstract → Giakoumaki, S., Roussos, P., et al; Sub-optimal parenting is associated with schizotypic and anxiety personality traits in adulthood. European Psychiatry. Online October 10, 2012

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Does this mean that the refrigerator mother theory that NAMI formed to combat actually has some scientific validity now?

    They won’t like this one bit. I think it’s great how even when biology is blamed we can still find that experience can be either a cause or a trigger due to influence on brain development and function. It’s just getting to the point where they can’t effectively argue anymore. Even if they blame biology, people can still rightly blame their parenting even if just for acting as a trigger if not a cause.

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  2. I don’t know why psychologists blame mainly mothers for their dysfunctional children.Fathers can be as much to blame. My husband used to terrify our children when they were little. He thought it was the best way to keep them on the straight and narrow. It has definitely affected their nervous system and their anxiety levels. It has also affected the way they react to other people. They don’t trust and are affraid of close relatioships

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  3. Not to mention teachers, school bullies, sleazy uncles, babysitters, coaches, Sunday School (I had some great Sunday School trauma!), and anyone the child has to depend on for their care or is forced to interact with despite their own judgment.

    There are a lot of stressful situations out there, and abusive fathers (including those who abuse the parent and don’t directly abuse the child) are high on the list of mind-screwing experiences that would mess with anyone’s life. Oh, and let’s not forget stepfathers and unrelated boyfriends, who are the most likely people to abuse or kill children they happen to live with, beyond the child’s bio parents (who obviously are the most likely, if only due to average exposure times and numbers).

    I also don’t get why it’s “blaming” the parent if you simply observe that they hit the child or sexually abused them and it had a bad effect on the child’s emotional condition. That’s not blame, it’s just observing the facts. Those who are reactive to possible “blame” are often guilty of things they feel bad about and that makes them more sensitive, in my view. It’s hard to acknowledge when you’ve let your kids down in some way, but we all do as parents, and if we have the courage to admit it, then our kids can start healing from it as needed. But pretending we had nothing to do with their adult behavior and emotional condition prevents even discussing the issues that might lead them to a healthier future.

    Parents shouldn’t worry about being “blamed.” They are the parents. They are responsible for creating the best environment they can, and for helping their kids adapt to life. No one does it perfectly, but by being humble, we do a much better job than if we’re worried about being “at fault” when our kids don’t turn out to be perfect.

    —- Steve

    Sounds like the pendulum is swinging back…

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