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Depressed Dads More Likely to Spank, Shortchange Kids: Study
Date:3/14/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Depressed dads are more likely to shortchange their children and use physical punishment, even on tots who are still crawling, new research suggests.

A study involving fathers of 1-year-olds found they were more likely to spank and less likely to read to their youngsters than mentally healthy fathers. The finding adds more weight to the emerging awareness of "postpartum depression" among new fathers.

"Depressive symptoms in dads may affect the way they interact with their child in negative ways," said Dr. R. Neal Davis, a pediatrician at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah.

For the study, published online March 14 in the journal Pediatrics, Davis and his colleagues evaluated data supplied by 1,746 fathers of 1-year-olds who participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. This long-running study is following nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000.

Overall, 7 percent of the dads had had a depressive episode within the previous year, which is about typical of the general population, said Davis, who conducted the analysis while doing research in pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The father, who lived with their children all or most of the time, were asked about four behaviors, both positive and negative.

The researchers found that the depressed dads were nearly four times as likely to report spanking their child in the past month, with 41 percent of depressed dads and 13 percent of non-depressed dads doing so.

Depressed fathers were also less than half as likely to report reading stories to their children three or more times a week compared to non-depressed dads.

There were no differences in the fathers' reporting of playing games or singing songs, whether depressed or not.

Davis stresses that the study found an associat
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