The Effect Depression Has on a Family and The Importance of Being Involved
A report in the July issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine offers useful insights on the relationships between moms, dads, and kids when the mother has depression. Let's take a look.
Bottom line first
When mom is depressed, the more a dad is involved in family life the fewer problem behaviors kids are likely to have.
This study in 50 words or less
Researchers looked at a national sample of over 6,500 mother/child pairings where the mother had symptoms of depression in 1992. Over 10 years they measured the father's involvement in family life (by asking the kids) and the kids' problem behaviors. The more involved fathers were, the fewer behavioral problems.
Yes, but. . .
This study was big and carefully done, but has a few limitations: The depression was based on mothers' self-reported symptoms just once, in 1992, while the kids' behaviors and dads' involvement was measured every two years.
But the study used excellent measures of dads' involvement. Kids were asked how often they talked to their dad about things that matter, whether he listened to them, whether he knew where they were and attended events that mattered to them, and how close they felt to him.
Problem behaviors tracked included kids' aggression, attention problems, and depression of their own.
As always, an observational study can show only an association, not a proof of cause and effect.
So, what are you going to do about it?
Fathers of children whose mother is depressed should understand how important their engagement is to the kids' well-being. While this is often stated by mental health professionals, this study can be a useful way to get dads' attention.
Fathers might want to seek counseling and guidance on how they can be involved in a way that blunts the impact of the mom's illness on the children.
Our featured video on depression provides an excellent overview of the disease.