A father’s depression during the first years of parenting – as well as a mother’s – can put their toddler at risk of developing troubling behaviors such as hitting, lying, anxiety and sadness during a critical time of development, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

This is one of the first studies to show that the impact of a father’s depression from postpartum to toddlerhood is the same as a mother’s. Previous studies have focused mostly on mothers with postpartum depression and found that their symptoms may impact their children’s behavior during early, formative years.

“Fathers' emotions affect their children,” said Sheehan Fisher, lead author of the study. “New fathers should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, just as we do for mothers.”

Sheehan is an instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He conducted this study while he was a researcher at the University of Iowa.

The study was published online in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.

By Erin Spain, Northwestern News Center

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