Voluminous research literature attests to the multiple negative consequences of maternal depression and depressive symptoms for the health and development of children. In contrast, there is a profound paucity of information about depressive symptoms in fathers according to a follow up study by NYU School of Medicine researchers in the February 23rd online edition of Maternal and Child Health Journal.
In late 2011 lead investigator, Michael Weitzman, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine and his co-authors identified, for the first time ever, in a large and nationally representative sample, increased rates of mental health problems of children whose fathers had depressive symptoms. In that paper, 6% of children with neither a mother or a father with depressive symptoms, 15% of those with a father, 20% of those with a mother, and 25% of children with both a mother and a father with depressive symptoms had evidence of emotional or behavioral problems.
"While the finding of increased rates of mental health problems among children whose fathers had depressive symptoms was not surprising in our earlier study, the fact that no prior large scale studies had investigated this issue is truly remarkable, as is the finding that one out of every four children with both a mother and a father with symptoms of depression have mental health problems" said Weitzman. He also noted that the findings highlighted "the urgent need to recognize the roles of fathers in the lives of children and families in clinical and public policy formulation and implementation, to further explore ways in which the mental health of fathers influence the health and function of our nation's children, and to structure our health and human services so as to identify and effectively treat fathers who are depressed or suffering from other mental health problems. A first step is to identify which of our nation's fathers are at increased risk for depression, which is the main reason that we undertook the current study"
The current paper, again using a large and nationally representative sample of households in the USA (7,247 households in which mothers, fathers and children lived), is the first paper to investigate characteristics of fathers that are independently associated with increased rates of depressive symptoms. Overall, 6% of all fathers had scores suggesting that they were suffering from depressive symptoms.