According to a new study, there is an increasing prevalence of fathers experiencing at least one major case of depression within the first year of their new child’s life.
The study noted that fathers with depression were nearly four times likelier to spank their babies as opposed to those who did not suffer from the condition. Further, these fathers were half as likely to read to their children as those who were without depression.
“This study, I think, is very important because it documents what happens in families when fathers are depressed. We have very little evidence about that,” says James F. Paulson, PhD, professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
“This idea that fathers who are depressed are more likely to use a harsh parenting tactic and also less likely to read to their children really points to concrete effects of depression in the father on the family.”
In order to come to their conclusions, researchers studied parents having babies in 75 hospitals sprinkled throughout 20 large cities in the United States between 1998 and 2000. From these cases, more than 1,700 fathers who reported that they were living with their kids “all or most of the time” were interviewed when their babies were one year old.
In order to determine whether or not fathers were depressed, they were asked whether or not there had been at least two weeks when they felt sad, blue or depressed. Nearly seven percent of the men involved responded with an answer that in some way indicated that they were depressed.
“Historically, and there are many studies that back this up, unemployment is one of the strongest risk factors for depression in men,” says study researcher R. Neal Davis, MD, a pediatrician at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah.
Above all else, the main thing to take away from this study is that while depression is a condition that has very serious consequences for the original sufferer, the children of these sufferers may be just as big of victims.
This study appeared in the journal Pediatrics.
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