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Dad's Depression May Rub Off on Child's Behavior

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Children with a depressed father are more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, new research finds.

Most prior research has focused on depressed mothers and the negative impact their depression can have on kids, according to the researchers from the NYU School of Medicine.

The current study involved data on more than 7,200 U.S. households. About 25 percent of kids whose mother and father showed signs of depression had emotional or behavioral issues. About 15 percent of kids whose father had depressive symptoms and 20 percent of kids whose mothers had depressive symptoms had emotional or behavioral issues.

About 6 percent of children whose parents did not have symptoms of depression had emotional or behavioral issues.

The findings shed light on "the urgent need to recognize the roles of fathers in the lives of children and families," lead study author Dr. Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine, said in a university news release.

The study is published in the Feb. 23 online issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

About 6 percent of dads showed symptoms of depression, according to the study. Factors associated with depression in dads included living in poverty; living with a special-needs child; living with a wife or partner who is depressed and having poor physical health. The strongest predictor of depression in dads was unemployment -- jobless dads were 6.5 times more likely to be depressed.

That's especially important given the current high unemployment rate, researchers noted.

"Fathers play profoundly important roles in the lives of children and families, and are all too often forgotten in our efforts to help children. These new findings, we hope, will be useful to much-needed efforts to develop strategies to identify and treat the very large number of fathers with depression," Weitzman said in the release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides more information on depression.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: NYU Langone Medical Center, news release, Feb. 24, 2012

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