Positive perceptions of parental caring are associated with reduced psychiatric and somatic symptoms

Linda G. Russek, G. E. Schwartz, I. R. Bell, C. M. Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: In a previous 35-year follow-up investigation to the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study, positive ratings of parental caring obtained in healthy male college students were found to be predictive of substantially reduced disease incidence (including cardiovascular disease, ulcers, and alcoholism) in mid-life. The present cross-sectional study examined the relationship between perceptions of parental caring, current psychiatric and somatic symptoms, and defensiveness, in a University of Arizona sample of females and males. Method: The Harvard Parental Caring Scale (HPCS), the SCL90R, and the Marlowe-Crowne (MC) scale (a measure of defensiveness) were administered to 398 students at the University of Arizona. Results: Cronbach alphas were 83 for HPCS ratings of mothers and .88 for fathers. High HPCS ratings were associated with reduced symptoms reports in both females and males (p < .00002). Ratings of HPCS showed a small correlation with defensiveness (r = .141). The relationship between HPCS and symptoms was strongest in the least defensive subjects. Conclusions: Positive perceptions of love and caring from parents, typically the most important source of social support for children, are associated with reduced psychiatric and somatic symptoms. Defensiveness may play a protective role psychologically (but not necessarily physiologically) in reducing the conscious awareness of symptoms accompanying low perceptions of parental love and caring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-657
Number of pages4
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998


  • Caring
  • Health
  • Love
  • Social support
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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