Mental health of dads can affect their parenting

Michael E. Bernard, Ph.D.
Professor, Melbourne Graduate School of Education
Emeritus Professor, California State University, Long Beach
Founder, You Can Do It! Education

Mental health of dads can affect their parenting
It’s not just mums who can suffer from pre and post-natal depression

 

In recent years, researchers have mostly studied pre and post-natal depression in Mums. But new findings have found that the mental health of dads can also suffer in the transition to parenthood*.

For many men, the transition to fatherhood is a time of happiness, excitement and love. But it can also be a time of great upheaval and anxiety. It was found that the clearly structured transition that tends to guide women’s experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting, is lacking for expectant fathers. In the absence of such structure, expectant fathers in the study found themselves ‘in a kind of limbo … between social statuses, neither one thing nor the other’.

Another Australian study of fathers-to-be found that ‘men struggled to come to terms with the reality of the pregnancy, their changing relationships and potential economic stability‘.

Risk factors in fathers associated with pre- and post-natal depression include:

  • ethnicity,
  • parenting stress, and
  • personality style.

Maternal depression and the quality of the marital relationship have also been shown to be associated with pre and post-natal depression in dads. Low social support is a risk factor that increases markedly for single, separated or divorced fathers. Men’s psychological state before and during pregnancy also appears to have a strong bearing on their likelihood of developing post-natal depression.

 

*published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies

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