Fathers’ Depression and Negative Parenting Behaviors
In 2002 the Institute of Medicine estimated that 4.3% of men with a child under 18 years old had suffered a paternity-related depressive disorder, while other studies have placed the probability of such depression within the first year of a child’s life as high as 10.4%.
A 2011 study from the University of Michigan published in the journal Pediatrics, “Fathers’ Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children,” used interviews with more than 1,700 fathers from across 16 cities to explore the associations between paternal depression and negative parenting behaviors.
The study’s findings include:
- Nationally, 7% of fathers living with a 1-year-old child reported a major depressive episode within the first year of that child’s life.
- Depressed fathers were 3.9 times more likely to report spanking their 1-year old than fathers not suffering a depressive disorder. (41% of depressed fathers reported spanking their children, compared with only 13% of non-depressed.)
- Depression among fathers was also associated with a 50% decreased likelihood of reading to their 1-year-old child consistently (reading three days a week or more.)
The results from this study point to the potential value of pediatricians screening both mothers and fathers for depression in the early years of a child’s development. Furthermore, the study found that 77% of depressed fathers had interacted with their child’s doctor at least once in the child’s first year of life, suggesting that there are ample screening opportunities.
Tags: children, mental health, parenting
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Pediatrics study "Fathers' Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related Time article "Fatherhood 2.0."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.