New evidence shows that men are at risk of Postpartum Depression in the first five years of their child’s live, and Black and Latino dads are even more vulnerable to the condition.
New fathers are at an increased risk for depression within the first five years of a child’s life, according to a new study. Postpartum depression for new mothers has been widely studied, but there is very little information on paternal depression.
“We knew that paternal depression existed and it affects about 5 to 10 percent of dads – and there are seven million fathers in the U.S,” said Dr. Craig Garfield, a pediatrician and researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and the lead author of the study.
Garfield and his colleagues analyzed data of over 10,000 young men who were enrolled in a study as teenagers and have been followed for more than 20 years.
“This was a great data set to look at this because you get young men who are teenagers and follow them into adulthood,” Garfield said. “And a good number of them are going to transition into fatherhood so we could actually look at their depressive symptoms scores over that time frame.”
They found that within the first five years of a child’s life, new fathers who live with their children experienced a 68 percent increase in their depression scores on average. Black and Latino fathers, they found, showed higher levels of depressive symptoms than white fathers.
The time frame is particularly significant because it is such an important developmental stage in a child’s life. Having a father who is depressed can potentially have serious ramifications.
“Young fathers who are depressed are more likely to disengage from care and involvement with the infant,” said Old Dominion University psychology researcher James Paulson. “And they’re more likely to use harsh parenting tactics like spanking, yelling, screaming and so forth, which we know is not helpful for child development and it could be harmful in some situations.”
The fact that Black and Latino fathers are at even higher risk for paternal depression is in line with previous research. On this note, Garfield says, “The next question is why are there these differences and how can we avoid making a one-size-fits-all approach to paternal depression and actually tailor something to fit individual needs?”
Ultimately, more research is needed to really probe this issue, but the findings are a promising step forward in an understudied field.
Originally appeared at UPTOWN Magazine
Photo: Flickr/Joelle Inge-Messersc