The view that depressives perceive themselves as having been exposed to an insufficiency of parental care and to parental overprotection was confirmed in a case-control study of 125 neurotic depressives, using a subjective measure of perceived parental characteristics, the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI). An interaction effect was noted, with the depressives scoring the same-sexed parent more deviantly. A discriminant analysis established that low parental care scale scores were the best discriminators, with raw care scores of less than 10 being highly sensitive in discriminating depressives from controls. Sixty-seven percent of the patients and 37% of the controls scored one or both parents to the "affectionless control" (low care--high protection) PBI quadrant, representing a relative risk of 3.4. It is concluded that the PBI delineates and quantifies a risk factor to certain grades of depressive experience.