Understanding the New Daddy Blues

Depression in fathers varied based on living circumstances and child age

(RxWiki News) Becoming a parent brings a host of changes that not every person is prepared for. Depression after a new child's arrival can occur for both mothers and fathers.

A recent study looked more closely at the depression that new fathers may experience.

The researchers found that fathers living away from their children experienced greater depression than those living with their children.

However, depression symptoms increased during the first five years of a child's life for fathers living with their children and then subsided.

"Seek help for depression as a new father."

This study, led by Craig Garfield, MD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, looked at rates of depression among new fathers, especially in their children's first five years of life.

The researchers used data from four sets of results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, covering 23 years of information from 10,623 men.

The authors analyzed rates of depression in relation to whether fathers lived with their children, their age when they became a father and the ages of their children.

The researchers found that fathers who did not live with their partners and children had higher rates of depression than men who were not fathers.

However, the rates of depression for those who were not fathers were higher than the rates among fathers who lived with their children.

The picture is a bit more complicated, though, in looking only at fathers who lived with their children.

Fathers who lived with their children and partners showed an increase in depression in their early years of new fatherhood, especially while their children were newborn through 5 years old.

In fact, during these early years of fatherhood, men's depression symptoms increased by about 68 percent over the time period.

Then, however, as their children grew into adolescence, the depression symptoms decreased for fathers.

The concern for higher depression scores among fathers in their children's early years is that this is the time period during which bonding develops between parents and their children.

"Identifying at-risk fathers based on social factors and designing effective interventions may ultimately improve health outcomes for the entire family," the authors wrote.

According to LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, a social worker in Colorado, this information regarding depression in fathers is critical.

"Depressed fathers are less likely to bond with their babies, engage in child care responsibilities and participate in family time," Pierce said. "We also know that children of depressed parents often have psychiatric problems later in life."

Treating depression in any caregiver in the home is very important Pierce noted.

"Depression in either parent increases the risk of child neglect and/or abuse," she said. "Early identification and treatment can change this. Men should learn the signs and symptoms of depression and seek help to prevent or decrease these risks."

This study was published April 14 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 13, 2014