Paternal Depression

Paternal Depression

There are many studies of maternal postpartum depression, but few have looked at the status of the new father. A study conducted in Liverpool, Australia (Matthey, Barnett, Ungerer and Waters) addresses, among others, this topic. Studying 157 couples who had their first child, the researchers found a higher risk of depression in the new father, when the new mother suffered depression. The risk was even higher the other way around, when the husband was depressed, the spouse had a much higher likelihood of being depressed herself. Other few studies have found similar results, yet depression in the father – or spouse- is seldom addressed or thought about. The risk factors for depression in the new father (similar to those for the new mother) are different early in the postpartum period than when the baby is around one year old. In the early postpartum period, there is correlation with the way the father was raised by his own parents (a style that is more controlling and overprotective was the most strongly correlated). Around the first birthday, the strongest predictor of depression was difficulty in the marital relationship, or low support between the spouses. The authors stress that it is difficult to get men to endorse symptoms of depression, particularly in self-administered questionnaires, and speculate there may be a number of barriers for men to acknowledge negative feelings. The study suggests that the stress of having a baby about to turn one require a particular attention to support between the spouses. The issue of paternal depression is relatively neglected and would deserve further study and exploration in the clinical setting.

Matthey, S., Barnett, B., Ungerer, J., Waters, B. Paternal and maternal depressed mood during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2000. Vol. 60. 75-85