How Depressed Dads Can Lead to Troubled Toddlers

It has been proven that a mother's depression has negative impacts on her children, but research was never done to provide information on whether or not a father's depression has any effect—until now.

A recent study published online in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, has linked both mothers' and fathers' depression with troubling behaviors in children, in particular toddlers.

Researchers at Northwestern University gathered information from approximately 200 couples with 3-year-olds; the parents had all participated in a depression study at the time of their child's birth. Each individual filled out a questionnaire that asked about "parental depression, their relationship with their partner, and their child's internalizing behaviors (sadness, anxiety, jitteriness) and externalizing behaviors (acting out, hitting, lying)," reports Science Daily.

The study concluded that each parent's level of depression impacted their child's behaviors both internally and externally, and that paternal postnatal depression had a significant impact on toddler behavior. Depression affected children much more negatively than parental fighting because depressed parents were less likely to make eye contact, smile, bond, or engage with kids.

With this information, doctors may now begin to monitor both parents' levels of depression—rather than only focusing on a mother's potential for postpartum depression.

"Father's emotions affect their children," said Sheehan Fisher, the study's lead author. "New fathers should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, just as we do for mothers."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Postpartum depression is more common than you may think. Dr. Judy Greene explains the symptoms of postpartum depression, from mild to severe, and also advises how new moms can seek treatment.

Image: Sad boy via Shutterstock

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