(dailyRx News) Children with depressed fathers are at a greater risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems. The effects are greater than previously thought - and unemployment may be largely to blame.
While depressive symptoms in both parents greatly effect children, the effects that fathers have has not been explored in depth.
New research attempts to rectify this by identifying markers of depression in fathers, which may lead to better identification of symptoms and treatments.
Michael Weitzman, M.D, professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine at NYU, explains: “Fathers play profoundly important roles in the lives of children and families, and are all too often forgotten in our efforts to help children.
These new findings, we hope, will be useful to much needed efforts to develop strategies to identify and treat the very large number of fathers with depression."
Researchers found that found that 15% of children with a depressed father show signs emotional and behavioral problems. 20% of children with a depressed mother showed signs of behavioral issues and 25% of children whose mother and father had depressive symptoms had behavioral issues.
Only 6% of children with no depressed parents had problems.
This is the first large nationally representative study on fatherhood depression. While it is true that the mother’s psychological health has a greater effect on children, the effect that fathers have is much larger than previously believed.
LuAnn Pierce, an expert on parent-child relationships, adds the following advice: "Children can't usually fathom that something is wrong with mom or dad - instead wondering ‘What s wrong with me?’ Adults who have depression should seek help to ensure that their children understand that nothing is wrong with them, and that their beloved parent is doing what he or she can to protect them, love them and foster their understanding.”
7,247 households participated in the study, which also attempted to pinpoint the major causes of depression in fathers. The researchers found that unemployed fathers are 6.5 times more likely to show signs of depression than employed fathers.
Living with a mother who was depressed was also a strong indicator of depression, at 5.75 times as likely. Poor health and poverty were also indicators, at 3.31 times and 1.5 times respectively.
Living with a depressed partner, poverty, and health are known indicators are known causes for depression, but the researchers found unemployment to be a surprising indicator.
“The findings reported in the current paper demonstrate factors that could help identify fathers who might benefit from clinical screening for depression, and we believe the results are particularly salient given the current financial crisis and concurrent increase in unemployment in the USA,” adds Weitzman
The study was published on Feb. 23rd, 2012, in the journal Maternal and Child Health and was funded by New York University School of Medicine.