Postnatal depression in mothers isn’t new. Postnatal depression in fathers, on the other hand, is almost unheard of. Despite the seeming rareness of the condition, researchers say that it does exist and that babies aren’t exactly unaffected by it. According to a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, fathers with postnatal depression are much more likely to be negative about themselves while they are playing or speaking with their kids.

To gather evidence, researchers videotaped 38 fathers (half of whom were depressed) as they interacted with their three-year-old kids for three minutes. Upon analysis of the footage, researchers discovered that fathers who were depressed were more likely to talk to their kids about themselves in a negative context than fathers who were not depressed.

Sentences like "Daddy’s not as good as Mommy" cropped up more often than not. In fact, comments with negative implications rose to 11 percent among those without depression and 19 percent in those with depression.

Unfortunately, not a lot of fathers realize that their actions may be inadvertently affecting their kids. "It is possible that babies will pick up on this negativity, that they will pick up on these cues even early in life. For example, the baby may have to respond differently to get attention." Says Dr. Vaheshta Sethna, first author of the study at the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University.

Still, the study doesn’t have everything covered. There is no guarantee that kids with depressed fathers will develop emotional and behavioral problems later on in life. However, it’s still a good idea for dads with postnatal depression to seek help and for their partners to support and encourage them to do so.

(Photo by intan_a3 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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