The Australian study shows that mothers who exhibit "toxic" behaviours - from being cold and indifferent to being abusive, manipulative or over-controlling - are far more likely to warp their children's outlook on life than fathers with similar behaviour.
"Mothers have a really powerful effect on the way their kids view the world and themselves, probably because kids spend more time with their mothers, especially in the crucial early years," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Wayne Warburton, a research fellow at Macquarie University's Children and Families Research Centre, as saying.
To reach the conclusion, the expert asked 441 university students to fill out detailed questionnaires on the parenting styles of their mothers and fathers, and on their own patterns of thinking.
He asked them to recall 72 parenting behaviours, including "making a child feel ashamed", being unloving or rejecting, and frequently telling the child they were stupid or would fail.
He also asked questions designed to uncover destructive thinking patterns in the students, such as being "clingy" out of a fear of being abandoned.
The expert found that young adults were two-thirds as likely to develop unhelpful patterns of thinking if the toxic parenting they had experienced came from their father rather than their mother.
If a range of poor parenting behaviours existed, they tended to be found in the same parent, the study found.
Just over 22 per cent of the mothers and 14 per cent of the fathers were classified as toxic.