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Depression in Dads Affects Parenting Behaviors

3/14/2011

Studies of parental depression usually focus on mothers, but depression in fathers can also negatively affect a young child’s health and development.

In the study, “Fathers’ Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children,” published in the April print issue of Pediatrics (published online March 14), depression in fathers was associated with certain parenting behaviors commonly discussed at well-child visits. Researchers studied data from 1,746 fathers of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Overall, 7 percent of fathers had depression. Compared to non-depressed fathers, depressed fathers were nearly four times more likely to report spanking their child, and less likely to report reading regularly to their child. In contrast, most depressed and non-depressed fathers reported regularly playing games and singing or talking to their child, suggesting that these activities may be more routine behaviors for fathers than reading. Because 77 percent of depressed fathers reported talking to their child’s pediatrician in the previous year, visits to the pediatrician may provide an ideal opportunity to discuss specific parenting behaviors and refer depressed fathers for appropriate treatment.

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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.