Early Fatherhood Associated With High Risk Of Depression In Men
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
New research from Northwestern University has found that young fathers are especially at risk from depression, with those who are at around 25 years of age when they become dads and whom live in the same home as the child at greatest risk.
The new study, published Sunday in the journal Pediatrics, found that depressive symptoms increased on average by 68 percent over the first five years of fatherhood. It is the first study of its kind to identify when young fathers are at increased risk of depression.
The results of this longitudinal study are significant and could lead to more effective interventions and treatments for young men during their early fatherhood years, according to lead author of the study, Craig Garfield, MD, an associate professor in pediatrics and medical sciences at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
“It’s not just new moms who need to be screened for depression, dads are at risk, too,” Garfield said in a statement. “Parental depression has a detrimental effect on kids, especially during those first key years of parent-infant attachment. We need to do a better job of helping young dads transition through that time period.”
Previous research had shown that depressed fathers used stricter punishments, read less and interacted less with their kids, and were more likely to neglect their children in the process. Children of depressed dads are also more likely to be at risk of poor language skills and have reading difficulties, as well as a rise in behavioral problems.
“We knew paternal depression existed and the detrimental effects it has on children, but we did not know where to focus our energy and our attention until this study,” Garfield said. “This is a wakeup call for anyone who knows a young man who has recently become a new father. Be aware of how he is doing during his transition into fatherhood. If he is feeling extreme anxiety or blues, or not able to enjoy things in life as he previously did, encourage him to get help.”
For the study, Garfield and colleagues collected data from 10,623 young men who were enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. It includes a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the US and follows them for more than 20 years into adulthood. The participants were followed through a series of waves over the course of the study, with depression scores taken during each wave using a survey – in the most recent wave, men were between ages 24 and 32 and 33 percent had become fathers.
The majority of these fathers lived in the same home as the child. However, in those fathers who did not live in the same home as the child, no dramatic increase in depressive symptom scores were picked up during early fatherhood years. In this subset, any depression symptoms scores were elevated before fatherhood and actually decreased during early fatherhood. Residential fathers had depressive symptom scores that were lower before fatherhood and then dramatically increasing after the birth of a child and into early fatherhood.
This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.