Study highlights link between dads and daughters’ mental health

Daughters of dads who suffer post-natal depression are more likely to suffer from mental health problems in later life, says new study.



Daughters of dads who suffer from depression following their birth are at greater risk of depression themselves as they grow up, according to a new study.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, is based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which began collecting data on parents and children in 1991. It builds on previous research suggested links between paternal depression during the postnatal period and adverse child outcomes.

The study investigated associations between paternal depression during the eight weeks following the birth and offspring depression at age 18 years.

A total of 3,176 father-offspring pairs were analysed. Of the children, 1,764 were girls (55.5%) and 1,412 (44.5%) were boys. Dads’ average age at birth was just under 30. The offspring of fathers who had depression during the postnatal period were at increased risk of experiencing depression symptoms at age 18 years  which was mediated by maternal post-natal depression and behaviour. The small but significant increased risk of children developing depression was seen in girls but not boys.

The researchers concluded that the association between paternal depression in the postnatal period and depression in girls at age 18 years is partially explained by maternal depression. Couple conflict and paternal involvement were not found to play a role, unlike with childhood behaviour problems. They say: “Conduct problems in childhood appear to be a pathway for risk transmission between paternal depression and subsequent depression in offspring at age 18 years.”

Researchers say the study shows a need for perinatal services to take into account paternal mental health.

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