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Health & Parenting

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Dad's Depression May Raise Kids' Risk of Emotional Problems

Study Shows Impact of Fathers' Depression on Children's Emotional Development

Treating Depression in Dads continued...

Davis has seen firsthand how identifying and treating depression in moms and dads can have positive effects on their children's development.

"The earlier we can catch the depression, the better it is for all involved," says James F. Paulson, PhD. He is an associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

He says that these new findings may encourage depressed dads to seek help, and that is a very good thing. This is the first large-scale study in the U.S. that documents the association between depression in fathers and a child's emotional and behavioral problems, he says. "For dads who may feel uncertain about seeking help, remember this isn't just about you, this is about your kid and even if you are not willing to get help for yourself, do it for your child."

The study did not get into the specifics of the children's emotional and behavioral issues. Paulson tells WebMD that some of the problems that these children could face will vary based on their age.

"Toddlers may show more difficulty regulating their emotions, have more ups and downs in their moods, and may tend to be more aggressive or react more explosively," he says.

School-aged children, however, are more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Signs of Depression

Alan Manevitz, MD, a psychiatrist at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, says the new findings "make total sense."

"In general, the psychologic well-being of the father will impact on children as it does with moms," he says. "It also makes total sense that depression in moms has a higher percent of impact on kids because moms traditionally are the chief operating officer of home life."

Knowing the signs and symptoms of depression can help you catch it early, Manevitz says. Men and women may express their emotions differently. Women traditionally have been more open to admitting they are sad, but men suffer quietly and don't share as much, Manevitz says. "Men may get angry and or drink more alcohol," he says.

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