I think we’re all very familiar with the idea that moms experience varying levels of depression after they give birth. Why don’t we hear more about what dads go through? It’s a serious question and one that I’m kind of shocked I’ve never spent too much time thinking about.
I read an article in USA Today titled, Depression Risks Increase For Young Dads. Apparently, young dads have a very high risk of experiencing depression in the first five years after their children are born, and the effects this depression can have on childrearing are pretty serious:
Symptoms of depression increased on average by 68% over the first five years of fatherhood for men who were around 25 years old when they became fathers and lived with their children, according to the study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.
Craig Garfield, an associate professor in pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study say, “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.”
Garfield’s previous research has shown depressed dads will use more corporal punishment, read less and interact less with their children, and are more likely to be stressed and neglect their children. Compared with the children of non-depressed dads, these children are at risk for having poor language and reading development and more behavior problems and conduct disorders.
I always make it a point to reach out to my girlfriend’s after they give birth. I know what a hard time I had after the birth of my first child, and I try to be available just to let them know it was hard for me and ask them if they are doing okay or if there is anything they need to talk about. I can honestly say I have never thought to do this with any of my male friends who have had kids – and I can’t believe it never crossed my mind.
It’s helpful to see research that reminds us that dads have a hard time adjusting, too. There is a huge range of postpartum depression – not all of it has to do with plummeting hormones or a medical diagnosis of PPD. If we are going to finally start acknowledging that a father’s role is just as important as a mother’s, we need to start realizing that the stress of parenting applies to both people, as well.