Summary: A father’s level of stress during the first months of his child’s life impacts his child’s emotional and behavioral development at age two.
Source: King’s College London
New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and others has found an association between fathers who experience too much stress in the months following the birth of their child, and later development of emotional and behavioral problems in the child at age two.
The research, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatrysuggests that new fathers should be assessed for stress during the perinatal period, as it presents an opportunity for early intervention to help prevent future difficulties for father and child.
The study used data from the Finnish CHILD-SLEEP birth cohort. 901 fathers and 939 mothers completed questionnaires on stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy and the three stages of the postpartum period, with a final survey at 24 months.
The new fathers were asked a number of questions about their level of stress, including how often they felt unable to control the important things in their lives and how confident they were in dealing with personal problems.
Their stress levels were scored on a 20-point scale, with those scoring 10 or more considered to be experiencing “high” stress levels. Participants were also asked to report on their child’s emotional and behavioral problems at 24 months.
Overall, about 7% of participating fathers experienced high stress at the first three stages measured during the perinatal period. This figure then rose to 10% two years after giving birth.
Researchers identified the strongest association between paternal stress at three months postpartum and childhood emotional and behavioral problems at age two, even when controlling for other factors like maternal stress , anxiety and depression. Paternal stress was more strongly associated with childhood outcomes than paternal depression or anxiety.
Dr Fiona Challacombe, clinical psychologist at King’s IoPPN and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and lead author of the study, says: “Our study found that paternal stress makes a unique contribution to child outcomes. , especially during the first months postpartum.
“Nevertheless, men may be reluctant to seek help or express their needs during this time and may feel left out of the maternal orientation of perinatal services.
“Explicit efforts may be needed to engage fathers in discussions about the kinds of supports they may need to manage stress and well-being and help prevent future difficulties for their children at what could be a difficult stage. sensitive to development.
“Future research needs to focus on understanding the mechanisms by which this effect may operate, whether it be paternal behaviors or the impact on maternal behaviors. This will help design the right interventions for fathers.
“The increase in paternal stress at age two indicates that this is not dissipating over time – returning to work, chronic sleep difficulties and behavioral difficulties becoming more apparent may all contribute.”
About this stress and developmental neuroscience research news
Author: Press office
Source: King’s College London
Contact: Press Office – King’s College London
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“Paternal perinatal stress is associated with emotional problems in children at 2 years old” by Fiona L. Challacombe et al. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Paternal perinatal stress is associated with emotional problems in children at 2 years old
Paternal mental health during pregnancy and postpartum is increasingly highlighted as both important in its own right, but also as crucial to child development. Help-seeking rates among fathers are low, perhaps due to the conceptualization of their own difficulties as stress rather than mood problems. The relationship between paternal stress and child outcomes has not been studied.
This study used data from the Finnish CHILD-SLEEP birth cohort. Data were available for 901 fathers and 939 mothers who completed questionnaires on demographics, stress, anxiety, and depression at 32 weeks gestation, 3 months, 8 months, and 24 months postpartum. The parental report of the child’s emotional and behavioral problems was collected at 24 months.
About 7% of fathers experienced high stress (greater than 90% of the percentile) at each time point measured during the perinatal period, rising to 10% at 2 years postpartum. Paternal stress measured before birth, at 3 and 24 months was associated with total child problems at 24 months, while paternal depression and anxiety were unrelated to child outcomes in the same model. After adjusting for co-occurring maternal depression, anxiety, and stress, an association remained between paternal stress at any time point and child total problem scores at 24 months. The strongest association was with paternal stress at 3 months (OR 3.17; 95% CI 1.63–6.16). There were stronger relationships between paternal stress and total problem scores for boys than for girls, although the interactions were not statistically significant.
Paternal stress is an important manifestation of perinatal distress and is linked to the mental health of the child, especially when present in the first months postpartum. Paternal stress must therefore be assessed during the perinatal period, which presents opportunities for early intervention and prevention of difficulties for both the father and the child.
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