Parenting measures

Parenting interview measures were utilised to examine the parenting role both concurrently as a vulnerability factor for onset of depression and retrospectively as a lifespan measure associated with disorder in offspring. As with other lifespan measures these are semi-structured, contextual interviews, which ask both about the perception of the parenting role and feelings associated with it, as well as behaviour in relation to the care and control of children.

There are three aspects to the Parenting interviews:

1. Current Parenting Role Interview

2. Pregnancy experience of parenting (incorporated into the Contextual Assessment of Maternity Experience - CAME - instrument)

3. Retrospective Parenting Experience (including parental aspects of the CECA).

Current Parenting Role Interview

This was based on scales in the Self Evaluation and Social Support measure. The role of parenting was explored in relation to vulnerability to depression in women initially in 400 representative Islington mothers. This investigated feelings about the role (in terms of commitment, identity, competence, security) as well as characteristics of the role (as determined by behaviour and context of parenting, for example interaction with children) and both positive as well as negative aspects (each identity enhancing and decreasing; security and insecurity).

The key parenting scale in relation to onset of clinical depression proved to be marked or moderate levels of negative interaction with children. This was incorporated in to the vulnerability index of ‘Negative Elements in Close Relationships’ which also included partner and support scales. Such interaction with children was also predictive of negative evaluation of self in the women studied.

Additional parenting scales were used in retrospective assessment of parenting in the high risk mothers studied together with their adolescent offspring. The key scale here proved to be 'estimated competence in parenting' which was predictive of offsprings accounts of maternal neglect, antipathy or physical abuse. The estimated scale was a better predictor than the subjective report of 'felt competence in parenting' although the two were highly associated.

Training is offered in the Parenting Role Interview (PRI) for social workers and psychologists involved in child safeguarding services. Whilst this is not a forensic investigative assessment of child maltreatment, it gives a highly informative assessment of the parent's self-perception of their parenting role and provides a summary of competence in parenting role. It also includes a summary of difficulties with children and positive and negative interaction. For further information see


Key references

Bifulco, A, Moran P Jacobs C & Bunn A (2009) Problem partners and parenting: Exploring linkages with maternal insecure attachment style and her neglect/abuse of children. Attachment & Human Development, 11, 69-85

Brown, G. W., Andrews, B., Bifulco, A. T., & Veiel, H. O. (1990). Self esteem and depression: I. Measurement issues and prediction of onset. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology., 25, 200-209.

Brown, G. W., Bifulco, A. T., & Andrews, B. (1990). Self-esteem and depression: III. Aetiological issues. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology., 25, 235-243.          

Brown, G. W., Bifulco, A. T., Veiel, H. O., & Andrews, B. (1990). Self-esteem and depression: II. Social correlates of self-esteem. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology., 25, 225-234.

Pregnancy Experience (Contextual Assessment of Maternity Experience)

The assessment of pregnancy experience examined how previous adverse experiences in pregnancy might increase later vulnerability to major depression, and show linkages in lifetime trajectories of risk. Scales examined issues around the pregnancy itself (adverse context, whether planned or not, health issues etc) as well as after the baby is born (partner support, satisfaction with the role, closeness to baby etc).  Issues of commitment, satisfaction and helplessness in the role were also rated. Parenting style in terms of ‘reciprocator’ ‘facilitator’ ‘regulator’ or mixed style, were also assessed. The child’s behaviour and development in early years was also included.

Analyses showed that adversity in pregnancy was associated with lifetime depression in women. This also held for later depression in non-pregnancy contexts. Adverse pregnancy was also associated with partner adversity. However only adversity in pregnancy associated with live births was significantly linked to childhood neglect or abuse. Pregnancy associated with loss of a child however added to the model of both childhood adversity and marital adversity in predicting lifetime recurrent depression.

This schedule was incorporated into the Contextual Assessment of Maternaity Experience (CAME) developed by Dr Bernazzani while working in the Lifespan team. This was tested both in the Transcultural Postnatal Depression study in 1998 led by Prof Channi Kumar as well as in  a London study of high-risk mothers perinatally led by Dr Maureen Marks. The reliability and validity of the interview were found to be high and the negative pregnancy scales highly associated with depression outcomes.


Key references

Bernazzani O., & Bifulco, A. (2003). Motherhood as a vulnerability factor in major depression: the role of negative pregnancy experiences. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 1249-1260.

Bernazzani, O., Conroy, S., Marks, M. N., Siddle, K., Guedeney, N., Bifulco, A., Asten, P., Figueirido, B., Gorman, L., Bellini, S., Gatigny-Dally, E., Hayes, S., Klier, C., Kammerer, M., & Henshaw, C. (2004). Contextual assessment of the maternity experience (CAME): Development of an instrument for cross-cultural research. British Journal of Psychiatry, 184(46), 24-30.

Bernazzani, O., Marks, M., Bifulco, A., Siddle, K., Asten, P., & Conroy, S. (2005). Assessing psychosocial risks in pregnant/postpartum women using the Contextual Assessment of Maternity Experience (CAME). Recent life adversity, social support and maternal feelings. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 40, 497-508.


Retrospective parenting - CECA parenting schedule

This interview asked about parenting experience during the course of the children’s upbringing. This included commitment, competence/incompetence, anxiety in the role as well as negative interaction. It also included detailed measures of care of the child (neglect, antipathy, role reversal) as well as control (supervision, discipline, physical abuse). Coping with parenthood was also questioned about in terms of attribution for perceived difficulties in terms of blame and self-blame. For each scale, reported parenting was rated, together with an interviewer assessment of under-reporting or defensiveness.

Analyses showed that mother's significantly under-reported neglect and abuse as reported independently by offspring. This has major implications for how assessments are made of parenting behaviour, with minimization or denial of maltreatment inihibiting accurate reporting of abusive behaviour retrospectively.


Key references

Fisher HL, Bunn A, Jacobs C, Moran P & Bifulco A (in submission) Concordance between mother and offspring reports of childhood adversity. Childhood Abuse and Neglect.


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