Depressed Dads Make for Troubled Kids

Mental health issues found in children when the father is depressed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When kids have a father who is depressed, they are far more likely to experience their own emotional or behavioral problems. Paternal mental health problems have a significant effect upon children, research shows.

This effect occurs regardless of the mental health of the mother, although children are also affected by maternal depression.

"Depressed fathers should seek help for themselves and their children."

In a major study, Michael Weitzman, MD, of New York University School of Medicine analyzed a national sample of 21,993 children between the ages of 5 and 17, who lived with both their father and mother. Those with depressed dads were 72 percent more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems.

And when the father's overall mental health score fell below average, these problems were 33 to 48 percent more likely in the children.

The negative effect of maternal mental health has been well-documented, but Weitzman's study is the first to show such an impact from paternal mental health. This link with the father's depression and mental health was consistent regardless of maternal mental health, showing that the fathers' emotional stability is highly influential as well.

Maternal mental health continues to show a stronger negative effect, perhaps because children tend to spend more time with their mothers.

In the Weitzman study, the proportion of children with elevated behavioral and emotional trouble scores were 15.5 percent with paternal depression, and 19.9 percent with maternal depression. Depressive symptoms were seen in three percent of the fathers analyzed, five percent of mothers, and two percent in both parents.

"Living with fathers with depressive symptoms and other mental health problems is independently associated with increased rates of emotional or behavioral problems of children," Weitzman wrote in the study.

Findings were published in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 7, 2011
Last Updated:
November 7, 2011