Anxiety, depression, and rejection towards parents among individuals who grew up in a hoarded home

BACKGROUND: Limited research has investigated parent-child conflict and mental health among adult children of parents with hoarding problems.

METHODS: Four hundred fourteen participants who reported clinically significant parental hoarding completed assessments of parental hoarding characteristics (clutter, insight, difficulty discarding), feelings of rejection towards their parent, depression, and generalized anxiety. These latter 3 variables were retrospectively rated across childhood (age 0 to 12), adolescence (age 13 to 20), young adulthood (age 21 to 29), and adulthood (age ≥30 years). Path analyses assessed mediated relationships.

RESULTS: More than one-half of respondents endorsed clinically significant generalized anxiety, and more than one-third endorsed clinically significant depressive symptoms across ages, with highest rates during adolescence. Parental insight was related to rejection across ages, and clutter was related to rejection from adolescence through adulthood. Rejection was significantly positively related to depressive symptoms and generalized anxiety in childhood and adolescence and to depressive symptoms in young adulthood. Poor insight was significantly indirectly related to depressive symptoms through rejection across childhood and adolescence and to generalized anxiety in childhood.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that parental hoarding may be a risk factor for anxiety and depression. Feelings of rejection towards parents may account for the link between parental hoarding and psychological distress, particularly between poor insight and depressive symptoms.

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