Effects of paternal depression on fathers' parenting behaviors: a meta-analytic review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Mar;30(2):167-80. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.10.007. Epub 2009 Oct 30.


One possible mechanism for the familial transmission of depression is through its negative effects on parenting and the parent-child relationship. Although previous research indicates that depression is associated with parenting impairment for mothers, no quantitative synthesis of the empirical literature on the effects of paternal depression on fathers' parenting has been conducted. The present meta-analysis examined the effects of paternal depression on fathers' positive and negative parenting behaviors. The mean effect sizes, computed using 40 independent effect sizes derived from 28 published and unpublished studies, indicated that paternal depression has significant, though small, effects on parenting, with depressed fathers demonstrating decreased positive and increased negative parenting behaviors. Several moderating effects were found, including child and father age, and sample race/ethnicity, and effects were comparable for studies that used self-report measures and observational methods to assess fathers' parenting behaviors. Moreover, effect sizes for the relationship between paternal depression and fathers' parenting behaviors were comparable to those found for mothers. The present findings indicate that paternal depression has a significant and deleterious effect on parenting behaviors by fathers, and speak to the importance of continuing to include fathers in research on child development and the family environment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Father-Child Relations*
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Social Environment