Washington D.C. [USA], Dec 29: According to a new study, daughters of fathers, as well as mothers who experience post-natal depression, are more likely to suffer from depression and emotional problems themselves during their teenage years. The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry and found that almost one in 20 new fathers suffered depression in the weeks after their child was born.
The research, based on a sample of more than 3,000 families in UK, also identified a link between post-natal depression in men and depression in their daughters as they reached adulthood. At the age of 18, girls whose fathers had experienced depression after their birth were themselves at greater risk of the condition, researchers found. The "small but significant" increased risk applied only to daughters, sons were not affected.
One reason for this effect could be that post-natal depression in fathers is sometimes linked with an increased level of maternal depression, researchers concluded. This might mean that family life is more disrupted for everyone with higher levels of stress for all. It may also be that having one or both parents with depression affects the way in which parents interact with their children. Understanding 5 Shocking Facts About Depression and Suicides in Men.
The findings are important because they have implications for perinatal services, which have traditionally considered post-natal depression to be a potential problem for mothers only, the study's authors stated. They highlight the importance of recognising and treating depression in fathers during the postnatal period and call on health professionals to consider both parents when one reports depression.
"Research from this study of families has already shown that fathers can experience depression in the postnatal period as well as mothers. What is new in this paper is that we were able to follow up the young people from birth through to the age of 18, when they were interviewed about their own experience of depression. Those young people whose fathers had been depressed back when they were born had an increased risk of depression at age 18 years," said study author Paul Ramchandani.
Earlier research by the same academic team found post-natal depression in fathers was linked to behavioural and emotional problems in their children at three and a half and seven. The effect seems to happen because paternal depression may negatively affect the way a family functions - causing conflict between partners and promoting maternal depression.
"Whilst many children will not be affected by parental depression in this way, the findings of this study highlight the importance of providing appropriate help to fathers, as well as mothers, who may experience depression," Ramchandani concluded.