Child's behavior problems may be linked to expecting father's mental health

Published January 07, 2013

| FoxNews.com

A child’s behavior problems at the age of three may be tied to his or her father’s mental illness during the mother’s pregnancy, Medical Daily reported.

Many previous studies have shown an association between the mother’s mental health during pregnancy and her child’s health later in life; now new research from Norway showed that a father’s psychological state may have a significant impact on the child as well.

The study analyzed data from more than 31,000 children from Norway, along with information about their father’s mental health.  At around 17 or 18 weeks of pregnancy, 3 percent of the children’s fathers reported mental health problems.  The children whose fathers reported the most psychological distress were more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems as toddlers.

"For parents and physicians, the message should be clear. We need to be aware of depression (in) both parents from the time a pregnancy is realized. This study suggests that physicians should screen for depression early and often, and make the appropriate referral as soon as it's detected," James Paulson, an associated professor of psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk who wasn't involved in the study, told USA Today.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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