Postnatal depression in fathers can lead to parenting problems in the future

Postnatal depression in fathers linked to parenting problems years later

By Child & Family Blog Editor and , | July 2016 

Fathers who are distressed and have low confidence in the postnatal period are more likely to exhibit poorer parenting when their child is 4-5 years old.

Fathers who are distressed and have low confidence in their parenting ability in the postnatal period are more likely to exhibit poorer parenting when their child is 4-5 years old. Researchers found these fathers were more likely to exhibit more hostility and lower parenting consistency. The study also found that children parented in this diminished way at 4-5 years were more likely to demonstrate emotional, social and behavioural difficulties at the age of 8-9 years.

The researchers, led by Holly Rominov at the Australian Catholic University, looked at data from 3,741 fathers in Australia. The reports on children’s behaviour were provided by mothers, fathers and teachers.

Another connection that the researchers found in the data was between fathers’ higher self-confidence in the postnatal period, warmer parenting when the child was aged 4-5 years, and a more sociable child at age 8-9 years – the converse of the relationship between fathers’ low self-confidence and later problems for children.

It is estimated that about 10% of fathers suffer from depression after their baby is born, and research has established that children of depressed fathers are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems in later life.

The researchers present their findings as further evidence to support more father-inclusive approaches to perinatal mental health – for example, information for new fathers about the emotional changes that can easily take place after a baby is born. Practical parenting support for fathers experiencing postnatal distress may build fathers’ confidence that could reduce later childhood problems.

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