Checkup: Dad's Depression & Kids Behavior
For many years, pediatrician and NYU researcher Dr. Michael Weitzman has studied how parentsí well-being affects their childrenís behavior. And like many pediatric researchers, heís especially noted that depression in mothers has a big impact on kidsí behavior and mental health. But what about depressed dads? Dr. Weitzman:
"Itís never occurred to me or to anybody else to look at depression in fathers, so the question youíre asking me is the most important question of all."
Weitzman may not have an answer as to why researchers have ignored fatherís mental health. But he is doing something about it. Weitzman recently looked at data on nearly 22,000 kids living with two parents, and took the first steps toward figuring out how, in fact, depression in fathers might influence their childrenís development.
"Itís probably true that dadsí mental health problems lead to mental health problems in children. But the converse is probably also true: that the increased prevalence of mental health problems in children with dads with depressive symptoms may be in part a result of childrenís behavior enhancing depression in the dads."
In other words, as any parent knows, kids can drive you crazy. Seriously, though, Weitzman thinks that in our troubling times, itís especially important to begin looking at depression in fathers.
"Because of the number of men who are unemployed, and we know that unemployment is second only to the death of a spouse in terms of being a stresser, we know that stress is one of the greatest influences on depression. We have large numbers of young men returning from Iraq and Afghanistan having witnessed all sorts of awful things that make them as a group at heightened risk for mental health issues.
"And because many of these men are or will be fathers, for their kidsí sake, itís high time that we begin paying more attention to dadsí mental health."
Iím Jeremy Shere.