Fathers who experience postnatal depression can ‘pass on’ depression to their daughters, new research finds.
Around one-in-twenty fathers experience postnatal depression, on average.
There was no link found between fathers’ postnatal depression and their son’s depression.
It is not clear why daughters are affected, but fathers’ postnatal depression may affect family functioning, leading to conflict and maternal depression.
It could also be due to a special link between fathers and daughters during adolescence.
The conclusions come from a study of 3,176 families in the UK.
Professor Paul Ramchandani, study co-author, said:
“…we were able to follow up the young people from birth through to the age of 18, when they were interviewed about their own experience of depression.
Those young people whose fathers had been depressed back when they were born had an increased risk of depression at age 18 years.
We were also able to look at some of the ways in which depression in fathers might have affected children.
It appears that depression in fathers is linked with an increased level of stress in the whole family, and that this might be one way in which offspring may be affected.
Whilst many children will not be affected by parental depression in this way, the findings of this study highlight the importance of providing appropriate help to fathers, as well as mothers, who may experience depression.”
Mr Mark Williams, a paternal depression campaigner, said:
“In my experience of working with families, it’s sometimes only the father who is suffering in silence but sadly very few are asked about their mental health after becoming a parent.”
The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry (Gutierrez-Galve et al., 2018).