Maternal depression has well-documented effects on the mental and physical well-being of children, but less research has been conducted on how depressed fathers affect children.
A new study, “Paternal Mental Health and Depressive Symptoms and Child Behavioral or Emotional Problems in the USA” in the December 2011 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 7), found that children who live with fathers with depressive symptoms and other mental health problems are more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems themselves. The study, conducted by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, looked at nearly 22,000 children living in two-parent households. Study authors found that the risks of child emotional or behavioral problems are much greater if mothers, rather than fathers, have such problems.
Having two parents with depressive symptoms was associated with a dramatically increased rate – 25 percent – of children with emotional or behavioral problems, as compared to 6 percent of children who had neither a mother nor a father with depressive symptoms. In homes where the father alone had such symptoms, 11 percent of children did, too, and in homes where the mother had symptoms, the rate among children was 19 percent. Study authors conclude that work is needed to develop ways to identify fathers with mental health problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.