Link Found Between Mental Health of Expectant Fathers and Child Development


Norwegian researchers, publishing in the journal Pediatrics, have concluded that the psychological distress experienced by an expectant father can negatively influence the emotional and behavioral development of the child. Their findings are based on analyzing data collected from over 31,000 Norwegian parents and children.

Said lead researcher Anne Lise Kvalevaagof the University of Bergen in Norway:

"The results of this study point to the fact that the father's mental health represents a risk factor for child development, whereas the traditional view has been that this risk in large is represented by the mother. The father's mental health should therefore be addressed both in research and clinical practice."

Investigators interviewed expectant fathers during the fourth and fifth months of their partners' pregnancies, inquiring about mental health issues such as fear, anxiety and depression, and then followed up when the child was at least three years old. Three percent of the fathers reported experiencing some level of psychological distress, and at the three year follow-up, investigators found that the children of these fathers tended to have the greatest number of emotional and developmental issues.

Researchers however were cautious in claiming any cause-effect relationship; they were merely noting the possible link between the two phenomena. They did however postulate about what could explain the association, and suggested that there may be a genetic risk being passed along by the father to the child, or that the father's mental health could affect the mother, and previous studies have shown that the mother's mental health can influence an unborn child's mental health and development.

Said Kvalevaag:

"The prenatal mental state of the father is likely to predict the postnatal mental health of the father and this may also account for some of the associations found."

Researchers suggested that when an expecting mother comes in for a doctor's visit, that doctors ought to be begin asking about how the expectant father is doing psychological, since it is not often addressed.


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