A recently published study has shined a light on a little talked about topic in the world of parenthood: paternal depression. According to Craig Garfield, an associate professor in pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study, 5-10% of fathers are affected by paternal depression. The study, which was published in Pediatrics, found that young dads were particularly at risk for developing this condition.
This study used data from another study that examined social and behavioral health in males over a 20-year period of time. The participants started the study during their adolescent years. Ten years into this particular study, 33% of the participants were fathers between the ages of 24 and 32 years old. While participating in the study, the participants were to respond to a 10-question depression scale to track their levels of depression at different times in their life. This data showed an increase in depression levels in some fathers shortly after the birth of their child.
Other related research done by Garfield has shown that “depressed dads will use more corporal punishment, read less and interact less with their children, and are more likely to be stressed and neglect their children.” This can lead to developmental problems for the child, including poor language and reading skills and an increase in behavioral problems.
Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatrics and global health at the New York University School of Medicine has done research that found some of the biggest predictors of paternal depression include living with a depressed mother and having a child with behavioral or emotional issues.
The early years in a child’s life are crucial, so it’s important to make sure that the parents are in the best place possible to love, support and nurture their child. It’s easy to get so caught up in life with a new baby that you forget to take care of yourself, but it’s clear now that dads, and not just moms, need to be aware of the possibility of developing depression. If you or someone you know is showing signs of postpartum depression, please contact a medical professional right away.