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Dads get post-baby blues, too.

For years, it’s been thought that the ‘baby-blues’ or postpartum depression, is something only mothers experience. However recent studies have shown that fathers my experience it too. And the affects can have far reaching consequences. Research shows that postpartum depression in parents can influence the development of their young children.

Studies show that depression, in a male’s life, after the birth of a child is significantly greater than at any other time. The toddler years, being a critical developmental period in a child’s life, has been found to be influenced by the emotional states of both parents. 

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Problematic behaviour in a child’s formative years is now linked to the baby-blues / depression in fathers upon becoming new dads as well. While previously many studies have been dedicated to examining the effects of a mother’s postpartum depression on her child’s development, there has been little focus on the role of a father’s.

There is now a growing body of literature that helps us understand that depression in either parent extend to affect children in their formative stages. Studies conducted over the last few years have pointed to young children exhibiting worrying behaviour – acting out, lying, and showing symptoms of sadness and anxiety – may be due to postpartum depression in dads. Studies have further indicated that depression after the birth of a child is significantly greater in a male’s life, more so than at any other time.

Children in homes with depressed disengaged parents, who do not smile or make eye contact with their children as much as happier parents do, are more likely to exhibit unhealthy emotions and less likely to develop close relationships with others.

What studies say

According to a recent study conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, the impact of a father’s depression on early childhood development offered similar sobering news to that of the effects of depressed mothers.

A surprising find of the study is that depressed parents had a greater effect on the bad behaviour of toddlers than fights between parents.

The study comprised of data collated from questionnaires answered by almost 200 couples who were parents of 3 year olds. Participants had to answer questions such as their relationship with their partners, as well as the internalised behaviours such as sadness and anxiety and outward behaviours like hitting displayed by their child.

In another study that examined more closely the impact on emotional development in children published in Pediatrics (December 2011 issue), lead researcher, Michael Weitzman, MD, professor of paediatrics at New York University Langone Medical Centre, reported that “There is a doubling of the risk if the father alone is depressed, a tripling of the risk if the mother alone is depressed, and the risk increases fourfold if kids have a depressed mom and dad.”

Simply put, depressed parents rear children differently. The way in which parents parent their children bears a direct impact on the emotional growth of children.

Early intervention is key

Leading the Northwestern study is the university’s instructor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences, Sheehan Fisher, who is also a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Early intervention for both mothers and fathers is the key,” said Fisher who also suggested further, “If we can catch parents with depression earlier and treat them, then there won’t be a continuation of symptoms, and, maybe even as importantly, their child won’t be affected by a parent with depression.”

About the Author

Zulfah is a freelance writer specialising in web  and digital content creation. Her extensivZulfah1e writing experience comprises writing articles on Lifestyle, Food & Home, Health, Wellness, Travel and Current Events. Her portfolio includes writing feature articles, SEO-optimised copy writing, blog posts, e-books, newsletters, media releases and company profiles for the web.

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