Family structure and depressive symptoms in men preceding and following the birth of a child. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood Study Team

Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Jun;155(6):818-23. doi: 10.1176/ajp.155.6.818.


Objective: The prevalence and etiology of pre- and postpartum depressive symptoms in women in a variety of family forms have been well documented, but relatively little research has been conducted on the adjustment of their male partners. The authors' goals in this study were 1) to estimate rates of depression during the pregnancy and 8 weeks following the birth of a child in a large representative community sample of fathers in different family structures and 2) to explore the role of stressful life events, social and emotional support, the quality of the partner relationship, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Method: This study describes the relations of family setting and other correlates to men's depressive symptoms during the pregnancies (18 weeks gestation, on average) and 8 weeks after the births of children for 7,018 partners of female participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood.

Results: Men living in stepfamilies had-significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms before and after the birth than did men in more traditional families. The effect of stepfamily status on depression was mediated by education, life events, social support, social network, and level of aggression in the partnership.

Conclusions: There are similarities in the patterns and correlates of depression after the birth of a child for men and women. These findings point to the importance of family and partnership ecology in the adjustment of men before and after the birth of a child.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Educational Status
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support