Frightening Reality of How a Dad’s Depression Affects Kids

DepressionFor a long time, science has told us mothers that, if we're depressed, it can affect our kids.

Of course, we didn't need researchers and studies to tell us this: We probably already knew that if we felt so down it was hard to get out of bed -- let alone sit with our kids patiently doing their homework with them and get down on the floor with them to play silly games -- our children would pick up on our emotional state. We moms are connected with our kids in so many ways; that mood and mental health was one of them was hardly a surprise.

But a new study has shown that depressed moms are not alone in affecting their kids: dads' emotional states affect kids, too. And if both parents are depressed, the effect on their children is particularly striking: 25 percent (that's one-quarter) of kids who have both a mom and a dad who are depressed show signs of emotional or behavioral problems – like feeling blue or anxious or acting out in school or with family.

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That's very sad news indeed. On the other hand, call me a Pollyanna (you wouldn't be the first) but it seems to me that there's a silver lining here for women: We are not alone in influencing our children when it comes to mood. We are not solely responsible for either bringing them down or lifting them up.

In households where there are two parents (which is what this study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked out), both parents are instrumental in establishing the emotional climate. Children are looking to both mothers and fathers as examples. That means we moms and dads are teams, and we have vested interests in taking care of ourselves and of each other -- for the sake of ourselves, our relationships and our kids.

Are you surprised to learn that a father's mental health affects kids' behavior?


Image via dnwallace/Flickr

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