Paternal Depression Linked To Not Being in Relationship With Mother Interview with:
Lisa Underwood, PhD
Research Fellow| Centre for Longitudinal Research
Growing Up in New Zealand | Who are Today’s Dads?
School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences
University of Auckland  Auckland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study is part of the contemporary, longitudinal study Growing Up in New Zealand, which is tracking the development of more than 6000 children born in 2009 and 2010.

In previous reports we investigated antenatal and postnatal depression symptoms among the mothers of our cohort children. In this study we looked at the partners of those mothers to explore whether men and women have different risks for depression in each perinatal period.

Our main findings were that expectant fathers were at risk if they felt stressed or were in poor health. Elevated depression symptoms following their child’s birth, were also linked to social and relationship problems.

The strongest predictor of postnatal paternal depression was no longer being in a relationship with the child’s mother. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Increasingly, we are becoming aware of the influence that fathers have on their children’s psychosocial and cognitive development. Given the potential for paternal depression to have direct and indirect effects on children, it is important that we recognise and treat symptoms among fathers early. Arguably, the first step in doing this is to raise awareness about factors that lead to increased risks among fathers themselves. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: More longitudinal research is needed on the impact of paternal depression on the parental relationship, parenting and fathers involvement with their children, and how these are linked to child wellbeing.

Growing Up in New Zealand will be exploring this as the cohort children age Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Father as well as mothers have a significant impact on children’s development. The antenatal and postnatal periods are critical times of influence on long-term child wellbeing/outcomes. Parents’ mental wellbeing affects their relationship, their parenting and their involvement with their children. Therefore, it is vital that we recognise and treat symptoms of mental ill health among fathers (and mothers) early. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Underwood L, Waldie KE, Peterson E, D’Souza S, Verbiest M, McDaid F, Morton S. Paternal Depression Symptoms During Pregnancy and After Childbirth Among Participants in the Growing Up in New Zealand Study. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 15, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.4234

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Last Updated on February 17, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD