Studies of parental depression usually focus on mothers, but depression in fathers can also negatively affect a young child’s health and development. In the study, “Fathers’ Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children
,” published in the April print issue of Pediatrics
(published online March 14,) depression in fathers was associated with certain parenting behaviors commonly discussed at well-child visits. Researchers studied data from 1,746 fathers of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Overall, 7 percent of fathers had depression. Here are the details of the study:
Objective: To examine the associations between depression in fathers of 1-year-old children and specific positive and negative parenting behaviors discussed by pediatric providers at well-child visits.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional secondary analysis by using interview data from 1746 fathers of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Positive parenting behaviors included fathers' reports of playing games, singing songs, and reading stories to their children ≥3 days in a typical week. Negative parenting behavior included fathers' reports of spanking their 1-year-old children in the previous month. Depression was assessed by using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form. Weighted bivariate and multivariate analyses of parenting behaviors were performed while controlling for demographics and paternal substance abuse.
Results: Overall, 7% of fathers had depression. In bivariate analyses, depressed fathers were more likely, than non-depressed fathers, to report spanking their 1-year-old children in the previous month (41% compared with 13%; P < .01.) In multivariate analyses, depressed fathers were less likely to report reading to their children ≥3 days in a typical week (adjusted odds ratio: 0.38 [95% confidence interval: 0.15–0.98]) and much more likely to report spanking (adjusted odds ratio: 3.92 [95% confidence interval: 1.23–12.5].) Seventy-seven percent of depressed fathers reported talking to their children's doctor in the previous year.
Conclusions: Paternal depression is associated with parenting behaviors relevant to well-child visits. Pediatric providers should consider screening fathers for depression, discussing specific parenting behaviors (eg, reading to children and appropriate discipline,) and referring for treatment if appropriate.
Compared to non-depressed fathers, depressed fathers were nearly four times more likely to report spanking their child, and less likely to report reading regularly to their child. In contrast, most depressed and non-depressed fathers reported regularly playing games and singing or talking to their child, suggesting that these activities may be more routine behaviors for fathers than reading.
Because 77 percent of depressed fathers reported talking to their child’s pediatrician in the previous year, visits to the pediatrician may provide an ideal opportunity to discuss specific parenting behaviors and refer depressed fathers for appropriate treatment.
- Dr. Jeremy
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