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Without regard to biology, children are mirrors of us. Even between children and fathers who are not genetically linked, scientists at Penn State believe that paternal depression could be leading to the observed increase in teenage depression-related behavior problems.

Most research focuses on genetically similar families

According to Jenae Neiderhiser, a renowned professor of psychology and human development and family studies at Penn State, a significant amount of research concentrates on depression among genetically similar families. Studies on adoptive and blended families now have access to more information.

Families (children, mothers, and dads) each responded to questions assessing behavioral inclinations, parent-child disputes, and depressive symptoms. From there, using various models, researchers looked at potential connections between fathers’ depression and behavioral problems in their children.

Ultimately, it was discovered that paternal depression is connected to teenage depression and behavioral problems. But, again,  this is irrespective if the child and the father are, in fact, linked genetically.

Alex Burt, a clinical psychology professor science at Michigan State, explains that the results indicated clearly the environmental transfer of depression-related behaviors between dads and children. Furthermore, in a subgroup of ‘blended’ households where the dad was genetically linked to one enrolled child while not the other, researchers still saw these relationships, which was a crucial confirmation of the findings. 

Researchers also discovered that a significant portion of this effect seems to result from parent-child strife. Such kinds of results strengthen the case that parent-child conflict influences teenage actions in the environment.

Study sought to establish a correlation between parental stress and teenage behavior 

The correlation between parental stress and their children behaving out was something the study’s authors anticipated to see. Still, they were taken aback to discover that it held true even for non-related parent-child couples.

Prof. Neiderhiser says more research on the step and adoptive families will be fantastic. They are frequently an underused natural study from which we could understand more about how to separate the effects of environmental and genetic factors on families.