Postpartum depression in women is well documented, but dads also get the blues, and new research suggests it negatively affects their parenting.
Researchers interviewed more than 1,700 fathers of 1-year-olds and found that the 7 percent who reported suffering from depression (assessed using a WHO diagnostic interview form) were four times more likely to report having spanked their child in the last week. The depressed dads were also less likely to engage in positive parenting activities, like reading aloud.
The study joins a growing body of evidence showing that paternal depression is a real problem. A 2010 report in JAMA analyzed data from nearly 30,000 dads and found that some 10 percent suffered from depression. That rate spiked to almost 25 percent during the three- to six-month postpartum period. And depression in dads may not only impact parenting techniques, but overall well being in kids as well.
Another study in the journal Pediatrics, this one from 2009, established a possible link between excessive infant crying (colic) and paternal depression. Depressed dads were almost twice as likely to report colicky babies. Researchers said this could indicate a genetic transmission of depressive symptoms, but it could also be related to factors like fathers' decreased sensitivity towards their babies.
The question is whether dad depression is increasingly prevalent or if there's just more information on the issue. Earlier this month, the British Journal of Psychiatry ran an article hypothesizing that former might be true. TIME reports that Dr. Broadie Dunlap, who is currently working on recruiting patients for a depression study, questioned if male depression will increase in light of the recession, as layoffs force some men to relinquish their role as primary breadwinner. TIME writes that if -- as Broadie hypothesizes they might -- the cultural and economic shifts associated with the recession make men more vulnerable to depression, there could be evidence that the environment plays a dominant role in triggering depression in men.