Fathers’ depression and negative parenting behaviors


May 5, 2011

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


We welcome feedback. Please contact us here.

Citation: Davis, Neal, R. "Fathers' Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children," Pediatrics, March, 2011, Vol. 127, No. 4, 612-618. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-1779.