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Objectives. When things go wrong for people they can become self-critical or focus on positive, reassuring aspects of the self. This study explored the relationship between forms of self-criticism and self-reassurance, recall of parental experiences and attachment style in relation to depressed symptoms in students.

Methods. A sample of 197 undergraduate students from the UK and Canada completed self-report questionnaires measuring recall of parental styles, attachment, forms of self-criticism, self-reassurance, and depression symptoms.

Results. Recall of parents as rejecting and overprotecting was significantly related to both inadequacy and self-hating self-criticism. In contrast, parental warmth was negatively correlated with these forms of self-criticism. In addition, when things go wrong for the person, recall of parental warmth was associated with the ability to be self-reassuring. A mediator analysis suggested that (1) the impact of recall of negative parenting on depression is mediated through the forms of self-criticism and (2) the effect of parental warmth on depression was mediated by the ability to be self-reassuring.

Conclusions. The impacts of negative parenting styles may translate into vulnerabilities to depression via the way children (and later adults) develop their self-to-self relating (e.g. as self-critical versus self-reassuring). Hence, there is a need for further research on the link between attachment experiences, recall of parental rejection/warmth and their relationship to internal, self-evaluative and affect systems in creating vulnerabilities to psychopathology.