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Lisa Black

Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACEs- can have lifelong negative impacts on health and wellbeing 

Washington, D.C.—A father’s depression during his child’s first year of life has been associated with difficulties in parenting and child behavior, but new research finds that it also doubles the odds of a child having three or more adverse childhood experiences by age 5.  

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include household dysfunction and child maltreatment, can have lifelong effects on children that include health problems, poorer mental health, and lower school performance. The author of the abstract, “Paternal postpartum depression and children’s adverse childhood experiences at age 5,” will present additional preliminary findings during the 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.   

“Paternal depression is underdiagnosed, and pediatricians are in a unique position to link fathers to appropriate supports that can benefit themselves and their families,” said author Kristine Schmitz, MD, assistant professor of Population Health, Quality Improvement and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.   

She analyzed data on 1,933 father/child dyads from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national U.S. urban birth cohort. About 75% of the parents were unmarried. The study investigated associations between depression in fathers in the first year of their child’s life and adverse childhood experiences when they transitioned into kindergarten.   

Children had two times the odds of experiencing three or more adverse childhood experiences by the time they were 5 years old, a risk that went beyond sociodemographic factors and mother’s postpartum depression, Dr. Schmitz said.    

“These preliminary findings demonstrate a robust association between father’s postpartum depression and later adversity for their children,” she said. “This suggests that fathers should be screened for depression and be offered treatment for their depression and that this may reduce the risk the hardships their children may later face.”  

This work was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Service Administration; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its support of the Child Health Institute of New Jersey.  

Dr. Schmitz is scheduled to present her research, which is below, from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22 during session H2035. To request an interview with the author, contact Jennifer Forbes, associate director of public relations for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at or Cell: 732-788-8301.  

In addition, Dr. Schmitz will be among highlighted abstract authors will give brief presentations and be available for interviews during a press conference from noon-1 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 21,  in the National Conference Press Room, 102 AB. During the meeting, you may reach AAP media relations staff in the press room. 

Please note: Only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal.    

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 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 Reporters can access the meeting program and other relevant meeting information through the AAP meeting website at 


Program Name: AAP National Conference & Exhibition 

Submission Type: Council on Community Pediatrics 

Abstract Title: Paternal postpartum depression and children’s adverse childhood experiences at age 5. 

Kristine Schmitz 

New Brunswick, NJ, United States 

Paternal depression is associated with child behavior problems and problematic parenting, yet little is known about its association with subsequent child adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). We investigated associations between depression in fathers of infants and children’s ACEs at age 5, an important developmental stage. 

We analyzed data on 1933 father/child dyads from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national U.S. urban birth cohort. By design, ~75% of the mothers were unmarried. Paternal depression was assessed using a validated instrument when the child was 1-year old and children’s ACEs were reported by their mothers 5 years later. ACEs included 5 measures of household chaos (father absence, maternal depression, substance use, 

incarceration, violence towards caregiver) and 4 types of child maltreatment (psychological, neglect, physical, sexual). We used measures of overall exposure to ACEs (>=1 ACE, >=2 ACEs, 3+ ACEs) as well as specific ACEs. We estimated unadjusted and adjusted logistic regression models of associations between paternal depression and ACEs. Adjusted models controlled for father, family, and child characteristics and maternal depression. 

Of the 1933 father/child dyads analyzed, about half of fathers were non-Hispanic Black (48%), 64% had a high school education or lower, and 50% of births were paid for by Medicaid. Nine percent of the fathers experienced depression during the year after their children were born and 70% of the children experienced at least one ACE at 5 years. Children whose fathers had depression at 1-year had higher odds of ACEs than those whose fathers did not have depression. In unadjusted logistic regression models, children whose fathers had depression at 1-year had almost 3 times higher odds of any ACEs (OR 2.94, CI 1.88-4.62) and over 2 times higher odds of 3+ ACEs (OR 2.40, CI 1.72-3.36). In adjusted models, associations remained robust with an OR of 2.35 (CI 1.45-3.81) for any ACEs and 2.04 (CI 1.42-2.93) for 3+ ACEs. 

Children whose fathers experienced postpartum depression were significantly more likely to experience multiple ACEs at 5 years, above and beyond maternal postpartum depression and other potentially confounding factors. The preliminary findings show a robust association between fathers’ postpartum depression and subsequent adversity for their children. Expanding maternal and child health policy and practice to include fathers and early identification with robust intervention for paternal depression may stave off childhood adversity. 

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