Associations between parental bonding, social isolation and loneliness: do associations persist in later life and is isolation a mediator between parental bonding and loneliness?

Annette Burns, Gerard Leavey, Roger O’Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Poor parental bonding in childhood has been associated with loneliness in younger populations. Whether these associations persists into middle and older adulthood is unclear. Additionally, given the overlapping relationship between loneliness and social isolation we sought to explore the role of social isolation in any associations present i.e. are those reporting worse parental bonding lonely due to less connections or are they more likely to be lonely regardless of isolation. Methods: Analysis of a nationally representative longitudinal sample of adults aged 50 and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing was undertaken. The current analysis was based on data for core participants across waves 3[2006/7] to 8[2016/17] with missing data across waves leading to analytical samples ranging from 4384 to 5173. Multivariate adjusted multinomial regression models were used to assess associations between parental bonding [PBI], isolation [score derived from data on living alone, frequency of contact with friends, family and children, and whether or not participate in social organisations] and loneliness [R-UCLA]. Results: Parental bonding scores were associated with later life loneliness according to overall PBI score [RRR .93 95%CI .92-.95], care [RRR .90 95%CI .88-.92] and overprotection [RRR 1.11 95%CI 1.08–1.14] subscale scores as well as when separated into maternal and paternal scores, with effects larger in relation to chronic loneliness. Parental bonding scores were also associated with isolation in later life, with the exception of maternal overprotection which was non-significant. The addition of isolation to the loneliness models however had no impact on associations indicating that isolation is not a mediator of the association between parental bonding and later life loneliness. Conclusions: Associations between parental bonding and loneliness do persist into middle and older adulthood and were in line with hypothesis stronger for more chronic loneliness. Isolation did not explain these associations and those reporting more negative parental bonds were more likely to be lonely regardless of isolation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number152
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Psychology
Volume10
Issue number1
Early online date16 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Research
  • Loneliness
  • Parental Bonding
  • Social isolation
  • Middle age, Older adults

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