Depression in a parent has a negative effect on a child’s well-being and affects their behaviors later in life. So far, research has largely focused on maternal depression and its influence during early childhood, whereas there has been negligible research on depression among fathers and the resultant outcomes on children, especially in their adult life. A new study by researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU), which appeared in the journal Social Work Research in April 2017, provides evidence that depression among fathers can have a specific impact on parenting.
Every year in the United States, the third week of June is designated as Universal Father’s week, which is a time to celebrate the importance of a father figure in family life. This period acknowledges the contribution of men who are actively involved in the lives of children, even if they are not biological fathers. Father figures play a critical role in a child’s upbringing, which is unique and distinct from the maternal role. Their feelings, emotions and moods have a pronounced impact on a child’s behavioral conduct, which are different from a mother’s influence.
Kevin Shafer, assistant professor in BYU’s school of social work and the lead researcher, states that several studies have focused on depressed mothers and how that impacts children but very few on how the same condition in fathers can impact children. With fathers increasing their involvement in children’s lives, Shafer considered it important to understand this which could have major repercussions for families.
Father’s depression affects adolescents’ behavioral problems
The study found that a father’s depression had a direct influence on adolescent’s internalized and externalized behavioral problems. Internalized behaviors include high withdrawal levels, depression and anxiety. Externalized behaviors manifest themselves in the form of elevated anger and aggression. The study also showed the contrasting effect of maternal depression on children; the impact was found to be subtle, possibly because most women tend to internalize their depression.
Shafer states that children probably recognize signs of their father’s depression in ways that are different than in the case of mothers. Men have a higher predisposition of showing anger, violence and frustration which cannot go unnoticed by children. Men are frequently unable to identify symptoms of their emotional problems, and even if they do, they end up hiding or ignoring them so as not to appear weak. The inability or unwillingness to deal with such emotional issues can take on many forms, including irritable behavior, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and even physical or verbal abuse in some cases.
Children, especially adolescents, who are raised in homes with hostile environments, are likely to develop behavioral problems. If both parents have mental health issues, children are likely to develop mental health disorders early, which may continue into adulthood.
Encouraging men to be vocal and honest about their mental health issues
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. It is estimated that in 2015, 16.1 million American adults aged 18 or older, representing 6.7 percent of all adults, experienced at least one episode of major depression in the last 12 months. Mental health awareness campaigns are being held across the nation. According to the researchers, these initiatives help in educating people, especially men, that it is normal to be vocal and honest about their mental health issues.
Male role models and celebrities can play a significant role in encouraging men to start talking about their emotional problems and seek help. During BYU’s recent campaign on mental health, star football quarterback Tanner Mangum took to Instagram to share his struggles with mental disorders. It garnered widespread attention on social media and received prominent coverage in American mainstream media.
Shafer mentions that when famous men such as Mangum, who is perceived by many as a “man’s man,” openly talk about their emotional vulnerabilities, it can positively influence other men to open up too. They will show greater willingness to undergo a mental health diagnosis, which will benefit them as well as their families and communities over the longer term.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers diverse and personalized mental health treatment programs for holistic recovery. Patients can choose from a variety of individual and group psychotherapy programs or alternative therapeutic activities for the betterment of their lives. Contact us if you want to know more on how to overcome mental depression. Our residential mental health facilities in California are among the best in the country. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to get all the help you need regarding the causes of depression and other mental illnesses as well as the most effective recovery programs to treat them.