While there is a large body of literature available about postpartum depression in new mothers, a recent study has found that men – particularly new Hispanic fathers - suffer from paternal depression during the first five years of parenthood as well.
Symptoms of depression among new fathers increased 68 percent during the first years of their child’s life and most significant rates of depression occurred in fathers around 25 years old who lived with their children, a study from the journal Pediatrics found.
“There’s been a significant body of literature describing the effect of mother's depression on child development, and the health care system has tried to rise to the challenge of identifying mothers with depression,” said Craig Garfield, lead author of the study. “Fathers have not been on the radar screen until recently. Now we know that … right around the time of the birth is an important time to try and capture and screen those dads.”
Other research into the issue found that depressed fathers were more likely to use physical punishment on their children, read and interact with them less and are more likely to be stressed and neglect their children.
The issue of depression is particularly worrying among Latino fathers because they face a number of issues that their non-Hispanic counterparts don’t, such as a lack of Spanish-speaking care providers and limited clinical data on Hispanics and mental health. Besides this, there are more common issues such as a stigma against mental health treatment, high costs of care and lack of insurance coverage, limited transportation and limited outreach programs.
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“The next question is why are there these differences and how can we avoid making a one-size-fits-all approach to paternal depression and actually tailor something to fit individual needs?” Garfield said of the racial disparities in his study.
Some researchers said that it is not surprising that fathers also suffer from depression following the birth of a new child as the transition into parenthood is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life.
“Young children require an enormous amount of care, and it can be stressful to juggle parenting, work, extra housework, all while getting less sleep,” Lisa Harvey, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, told The Town Talk. “Having a child can also cause financial strain and difficulties in the couple’s relationship. All of these things can put parents at risk for becoming depressed.”