According to new research published this month in the journal Pediatrics, new fathers are susceptible to postpartum depression.
Researchers from the University of Michigan collected data from 1,746 new fathers in 20 cities, finding that over all, about 7 percent showed signs of depression. More than 40 percent of depressed fathers spanked their children, compared with 13 percent of fathers who weren’t depressed.
As is the case with postpartum depression in mothers, depression in new dads affects children. Depressed fathers are more likely to report substance abuse than fathers who are not depressed, and they’re less likely to read stories to their children. And among certain groups, male postpartum depression is alarmingly common. According to the study, among fathers of infants between 3 and 6 months old, one in four men is depressed.
So why do we hear so little about postpartum depression in fathers? Why are there so few resources available for dads who are struggling with their new roles in life? It’s partly because many pediatricians – who are the doctors most likely to come into contact with new dads, and therefore the first line of defense – don’t know that they should be looking for signs of postpartum depression in fathers as well as in mothers. The authors of the study conclude, though, that this has to change. “The field of pediatrics is now faced with finding ways to support fathers in their parenting role much in the same way we support mothers.”
You can read more about the study here.