0721 GMT February 25, 2020
This is one of the first studies to show that the impact of a father's depression from postpartum to toddlerhood is the same as a mother's. Previous studies have focused mostly on mothers with postpartum depression and found that their symptoms may impact their children's behavior during early, formative years, Science Codex reported.
"Father's emotions affect their children," said Sheehan Fisher, lead author of the study. "New fathers should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, just as we do for mothers."
Sheehan is an instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He conducted this study while he was a researcher at the University of Iowa.
Mothers and fathers who are depressed may not make as much eye contact or smile as much as parents who are not depressed. The more disengaged parents are from their child, the greater the risk the child will have forming close attachments and healthy emotions, Sheehan said.
"Depression affects the way people express emotions, and it can cause their behavior to change," Sheehan said.
Previous studies have shown that fathers are at a greater risk of depression after the birth of a child than at any other time in a typical male's life. This study found that a father's mood during postpartum is important to the trajectory of his depression three years later and significant for predicting his child's behavior during toddler years.