The literature on adolescent delinquent behaviour and psychopathy contains the view that much of the delinquent behaviour is masking a depressive underlay, and that psychopaths may be in a chronic state of helplessness which they defend against through their anti-social behaviour. The current study examined the levels of trait depression in two groups of adolescent male offenders in a state training school. The group classified as anti-social personalities showed higher levels of trait depression than a group of first committals. The role of a perceived lack of paternal care, and, to a lesser extent, maternal over-protection emerged as the main variables explaining the variance in the trail depression scores. The quality of parental care appeared more important than continuity, with perceived affectionless control being significantly related to high trait depression scores. The importance of the mother in the development of persistent anti-social behaviour was highlighted as was the role of the father in relation to trait depression and overall delinquent development.