A child who lives in a household with a father with depressive symptoms or other mental health conditions has a higher risk of having behavioral or emotional problems, compared to other children, researchers from New York School of Medicine reported in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors explained that a mother’s depression is well known to raise the risk of mental and physical consequences for her children. There is much less research on paternal depression, and what its impact might be on his offspring.

The researchers looked at 21,993 children who lived with two parents in the household. They found that if the mother has depressive symptoms the risk of the children having emotional or behavioral problems is greater that if the father is affected.

The researchers found that the rate of behavioral and emotional problems in children was:

  • 25% if both parents had symptoms of depression
  • 19% if just the mother was affected
  • 11% if just the father was affected
  • 6% if neither parent was affected

The researchers believe that further research is required to find better ways of identifying fathers with mental health problems.

The authors added:

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to use a representative US sample to demonstrate that living with fathers with depressive symptoms and other mental health problems is independently associated with increased rates of emotional or behavioral problems of children.”

Abraham Lincoln with son Tad. Lincoln suffered from “melancholy” (depression). It is not known whether his sons were affected. He had four children. His wife Mary was committed temporarily by the only surviving son, Robert, after losing her husband and three sons.

Written by Christian Nordqvist