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According to a new study by Karolinska Institute researchers published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, there is an increased risk of depression among dads is high when their children are toddlers and if there is a poor co-parenting relationship in the first few months after delivery.

Research shows the relationship between co-parenting and depression in dads

Associate professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Women’s and Children’s Health Department Michael Wells said that as a society, it is necessary to support co-parenting relationships at the early stages of parenting. The best way to do this is by screening fathers for co-parenting status during toddlerhood and infancy and offering interventions to improve communication and collaboration around the child if necessary.

Postpartum depression affects 9–10% of fathers, a very high percentage compared to the general population. According to earlier studies, youngsters brought up with depressive dads are also more likely to experience mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Therefore, researchers seek to create strategies to stop mental conditions in kids and parents by finding modifiable characteristics that lower the incidence of depression in dads.

The study recruited 429 fathers of toddlers up to two years in Sweden. The subjects completed questionnaires where they ranked depression symptoms and the nature of co-parenting relationships. Researchers collected data at three-time points when the kids were 8, 13, and 26 months. Close to 20% of the dads reported depression symptoms at some stage in the study.

Two-thirds of men have bad co-parenting relationships immediately after birth

The results show that two-thirds of men with bad co-parenting relationships within the first year after childbirth are more likely to experience depressive symptoms as their children age. On the other hand, fathers with greater co-parenting values are most likely to experience fewer depressive symptoms. Furthermore, the scientists found links between earlier sadness and later, less favorable co-parenting relations.

Wells said that depression and poor co-parenting are bidirectionally correlated, which means the two factors influence each other. However, the main pointer for depression development is poor co-parenting at the early stages of childhood.