WASHINGTON — Children of fathers who develop postpartum depression are more likely to experience multiple adverse childhood experiences by the time they’re 5 years old, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The findings held even after taking into account postpartum depression in the child’s mother and other factors that might increase risk of adverse childhood experiences, reported Kristine H. Schmitz, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J.
Paternal postpartum depression has not been studied very well, so it’s difficult to pin down its prevalence, but some research has found rates as high as 25%, Dr. Schmitz told attendees.
“We recognize that it’s very under-recognized and often under-reported, but we also know that it has lots of downstream effects on child outcomes, including difficulties with parenting, difficulties with child behavior, as well as school performance and school attainment and employment,” Dr. Schmitz said.
Paternal depression and adverse childhood experiences
The study involved an analysis of six waves of data from the Future of Families & Child Wellbeing Study, which follows a national cohort of children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The cohort includes an intentional over-representation of unmarried mothers, who make up about 75% of the overall population.
The researchers used the World Health Organization’s Composite International Diagnosis Interview Short Form (CIDI-SF) to assess fathers’ depression when their children were 1 year old. Then the researchers looked at the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) children had at 5 years old.
The analysis was adjusted to account for the child’s sex and the father’s age, race/ethnicity, and education as well as whether he was born inside or outside the United States. The findings were also adjusted for the whether the child’s parents were married or cohabiting, whether the child had low birth weight, whether the birth was covered by Medicaid, and whether the mother had postpartum depression.
Among the 1,933 pairs of fathers and children in the analysis, nearly half the fathers were non-Hispanic Black (48%) and more than half (64%) had a high school education or lower level of education. Medicaid paid for half the children’s births.
Nine percent of the fathers experienced depression during their child’s first year, and 70% of the children had at least one ACE at 5 years old. Two in five children (39%) had two ACEs at age 5, and 21% of children had three ACEs.
Children were twice as likely to have three ACEs at 5 years old if their father had depression during the child’s first year (adjusted odds ratio, 2.04; 95% confidence interval, 1.42-2.93). Paternal depression was also significantly associated with children having one ACE (OR, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.45-3.81) and two ACES (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.35-2.63) at age 5.
The ACE with the highest association with paternal depression was the father’s absence from children’s lives (aOR, 2.65; 95% CI, 1.74-4.04). In addition, children of fathers with depression had 60% greater odds of exposure to substance use (aOR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.08-2.34).
Children also had greater odds of child maltreatment at age 5 if their father had depression in their child’s first year. Odds were greater for psychological maltreatment (aOR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.02-2.34), neglect (aOR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.08-2.46), and physical maltreatment (aOR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.04-2.35). The researchers did not find any association between paternal depression and the ACEs of sexual maltreatment, maternal depression, incarceration of someone in the home, or violence toward the mother.
“We know that dads play a critical role in the family,” Dr. Schmitz said. “We as pediatricians have a really unique position with families, and we should capitalize on that opportunity to engage with fathers just like we do with mothers and postpartum depression. Hopefully by doing that, we’ll reduce hardships for children and families down the road.”
Dr. Schmitz also said it’s important for pediatricians to advocate at a policy level “to really include dads more explicitly in maternal and child health policy and advocate for better father-focused interventions from father-focused research.” She further acknowledged the stigma that exists around men’s mental health in general and the need to find out the best ways to help overcome that stigma.
“Concerning” findings may suggest a need for screening
Jason Terk, MD, a pediatrician practicing in north Texas and past president of the Texas Pediatric Society, was not surprised to see a link between depression in fathers and adversity in their children. Dr. Terk was not involved in the research but noted that the 9% rate of paternal depression seen in the study is similar to national rates of depression in U.S. adults.
“I think that the presence of paternal depression being associated with ACEs in their children in their first 5 years of life is certainly concerning and worthy of intervention for both the fathers and their children,” Dr. Terk said. “The key take-home message for clinicians who care for infants and small children is that the presence of paternal depression should increase awareness of adverse effects on those children. We need to consider screening for this at 12 months of age in much the same way we screen for maternal depression for younger infants.”
Dr. Terk noted one limitation of the study was that it didn’t suggest any specific risk factors pediatricians might look for to increase surveillance of potential depression in fathers.
“Also, unlike maternal depression, in which moms may be connected with their obstetricians if they screen positive on an Edinburgh questionnaire, we will be hard-pressed to know where to refer dads who are found to be depressed when their babies are 12 months old,” Dr. Terk said. “Screening must lead to helpful responses if the screening reveals a problem.”
The research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Dr. Schmitz had no disclosures. Dr. Terk has been a speaker for Sanofi on a topic unrelated to this research.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/997864?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-10-30 15:08:52
Copyright for syndicated content belongs to the linked Source.