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This study considers the potential role of core beliefs (unconditional schema-level representations) in the relationship between recalled parenting in childhood and major depression in adulthood, comparing a group of depressed outpatients (N = 60) with a healthy community sample (N = 67). The depressed group were differentiated by poorer perceived parenting (low care and high overprotection) and by three unhealthy core beliefs (defectiveness/shame, self-sacrifice, and insufficient self-control). Among nonclinical participants, it appears that vulnerability to harm beliefs act as a partial mediator of the relationship between poor paternal care and the development of depressive features. In contrast, a broader set of core beliefs appears to mediate the relationship of maternal bonding and paternal overprotection with depressive symptoms among the depressed group. The findings suggest that clinical work with adults with major depression might need to take account of parental style. Where parents are reported to be uncaring or overprotective, cognitive-behavioral therapy might need to include a schema-focused component.