Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

Publication Date



This study was designed as a constructive replication of Wintre and Gates (2006) research which investigated the relationships between recalled parents' parenting styles and perceptions of reciprocity with their parents in adolescence, as well as current perceptions of spousal/partner reciprocity to their current psychological distress as middle-age adults. The operational definition of parenting styles for this research study is based on Baumrind's theory of childhood parenting styles, and the construct of parent-child reciprocity is derived from Youniss' theory of late adolescents' perceived reciprocity. The present study was based on the data individually collected from 100 adults 40-58 years of age living in a small southwestern city. The same measures from the Wintre and Gates (2006) study were used to assess the variables of this study, and a questionnaire developed by the researcher obtained additional background information from the participants. The results of the present study were highly similar to the findings of the previous study; given the smaller size sample, even when a relationship was not statistically significant, the directionality of the relationships remained the same. The main findings indicated that current partner reciprocity significantly explained more variance in the psychological distress of middle-age adults than did reported parents' parenting style in childhood and parent-child reciprocity in adolescence. In general, both mothers and fathers were reported as being more authoritarian than authoritative, but only by a small and non-statistically significant amount, whereas reported parents' permissive parenting style received the lowest mean scores. Negative correlations were found between the reported authoritative parenting style total score and the distress total scores, whereas positive correlations were found between the reported authoritarian and permissive parenting style total scores and measures of psychological distress. Perceived reciprocity with parents and/or partner were both found to have a negative correlation with participants' distress scores. Reported mother reciprocity was significantly correlated with the SCL-90-R GSI total score, but father reciprocity was not significantly correlated with any of the measures of distress. Partner reciprocity, however, was highly negatively correlated with measures of psychological distress. Moreover, partner reciprocity was found to be the most influential of the variables included in the regression analyses for both the present and previous study and for both male and female participants. The data is consistent with and supports the notion that human development continues to change throughout one's lifespan and that current relationships can have a strong influence on well-being, including the reduction of any negative effects from earlier relationships.


Middle-Age Adults, Psychological Distress, Spousal/Partner Reciprocity, Parental Reciprocity, Parenting Styles, Relationships with Parents, Relationships with Spouse or Partner

Document Type




Degree Name

Family Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Kessel, Frank