BACKGROUND: Various psychosocial factors have been linked to adult physical health and are also associated with socioeconomic position in adulthood. We evaluated the effect of socioeconomic conditions over the life course on measures of psychosocial functioning in adulthood. METHODS: Life course socioeconomic position was assessed by retrospective recall of parents' education and occupation when the respondent was age 10, and the respondents' education, occupation, and income in 2585 men from eastern Finland aged 42, 48, 54, and 60 years. Measures of psychosocial functioning were derived from scales measuring cynical hostility, hopelessness, and depressive symptoms. RESULTS: Men with both parents who had less than a primary school education or who both had unskilled manual jobs had higher age-adjusted levels of cynical hostility, hopelessness, and depressive symptoms in adulthood. Mutually adjusted analyses showed that parents' education and the respondents' education, occupation, and income all had statistically independent effects on adult levels of cynical hostility and hopelessness. For instance, men for whom neither parent had completed primary education had a 0.15 standard deviation (P = 0.006) higher cynical hostility score, and a 0.20 standard deviation (P = 0.00018) higher hopelessness score, after adjustment for education, occupation and income. In contrast, depressive symptoms in adulthood were only associated with the respondent’s occupation and income. CONCLUSIONS: Childhood socioeconomic position was associated with adult psychosocial functioning, but these effects were specific to some aspects of adult psychosocial functioning–cynical hostility and hopelessness, but not depressive symptoms. Adult occupation and income were associated with all measures of psychosocial functioning. In addition to the impact of adult socioeconomic position, some aspects of poor psychosocial functioning in adulthood may also have socioeconomic roots early in life.