The Effect of Expectant Father’s Mental Health on Their Children

There’s been a lot of research over the years showing that having a depressed mother increases the chance that a child—even an infant—will exhibit depressive symptoms. There’s also been a lot of research on the influence that a pregnant mom’s mood may have on the child after the birth. But until now, there has been precious little investigation of the influence of fathers’ mood on their children—before or after birth.

A study just published in the journal Pediatrics has identified a like between expectant dads’ mental health during their partner’s pregnancy and their children’s mental health as toddlers, specifically behavioral and emotional problems. Researchers in Norway studied 31,000 children and found that at 17 or 18 weeks gestation, 3 percent of the expectant fathers had “high levels of psychological distress.” And the higher the dad-to-be’s stress level, the greater his child’s risk of acting out at age three.

The study, “Paternal Mental Health and Socioemotional and Behavioral Development in Their Children,” appeared in the February, 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

Whatcha think?