A new study published Jan 7 in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that a father-to-be’s psychological distress may in fact influence his toddler's emotional and behavioral development.
The study looked at more than 31,000 children born in Norway, their parents and the amount of distress in the home.
Researchers asked the fathers questions about their mental health, for example if they felt blue or fearful, when the mothers were in the second trimester of their pregnancies.
The researchers gathered information on whether the children got into a lot of fights, if they showed anxious behavior, or if their mood shifted from day to day.
Of those studied, three percent of the fathers reported high levels of psychological distress. Researchers identified an association between the father's mental health and their child’s development.
Children of the most distressed men struggled the most emotionally at age 3. However, the study was unable to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between a father’s mental state and his child’s behavior.
One expert said that depression in fathers may affect the mental health of the mother-to-be and her developing fetus.
The information on the father’s mental health state was obtained from self-reports, which of course may be unreliable. The researchers went on the word of the subject.
Fathers are often overlooked when it comes to doctors appointments for the mother and child. After all, those are the two, whose physical well-being is being evaluated. But this study gives clinicians a peek into the possibility that how the father is fairing may have a large impact on the child who is about to enter the world.