Objective: Postnatal depression in women is associated with adverse effects on both maternal health and children's development. It is unclear whether depression in men at this time poses comparable risks. The present study set out to assess the association between depression in men in the postnatal period and later psychiatric disorders in their children and to investigate predisposing factors for depression in men following childbirth.
Method: A population-based cohort of 10,975 fathers and their children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) was recruited in the prenatal period and followed for 7 years. Paternal depressive symptoms were assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and later child psychiatric disorder (DSM-IV) with the Development and Well-Being Assessment.
Results: Depression in fathers in the postnatal period was significantly associated with psychiatric disorder in their children 7 years later (adjusted OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.07-2.77), most notably oppositional defiant/conduct disorders (adjusted OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.04-3.61), after adjusting for maternal depression and paternal educational level. A history of severe depression and high prenatal symptom scores for depression and anxiety were the strongest predictors of paternal depression in the postnatal period.
Conclusions: Depression in fathers in the postnatal period is associated with later psychiatric disorders in their children, independently of maternal postnatal depression. Further research into the risks associated with paternal psychopathology is required because this could represent an important opportunity for public health intervention.