Men who entered into fatherhood at around age 25 saw a 68% increase of depressive symptoms over their first five years of being dads—if they lived at the same home as their children.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 10,623 young men who were participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The study tracked the fathers for about 20 years, and kept score of their depression symptoms.
While fathers who didn't share a home with their children didn't experience the same high increase in depressive symptoms in early fatherhood, most of the fathers in the study did live with their children. Those men had lower depression symptoms before they became dads and experienced a spike in symptoms when their child was born and through the first few years.
Identifying depression symptoms in young fathers is critical, since earlier research shows that depressed dads read and interact less with their kids, are more likely to use corporal punishment, and are more likely to neglect their kids.
"Parental depression has a detrimental effect on kids, especially during those first key years of parent-infant attachment," said lead study author Dr. Craig Garfield, an associate professor in pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement. "We need to do a better job of helping young dads transition through that time period."
Image: Sad father, via Shutterstock