263073 A longitudinal analysis of the transition to fatherhood and paternal mental health

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 2:45 PM - 3:00 PM

Craig Garfield, MD , Departments of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Greg Duncan, PhD , Department of Education, University of California - Irvine, Irvine, CA
Joshua Rutsohn, MPH , Department of Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL
Emma Adam, PhD , School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Thomas McDade, PhD , Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, PhD , School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Background: The contribution of the mental health of fathers to the health of families is a growing public health concern. However, as a new focus, the exact nature and natural history of mental health changes around the transition to fatherhood are largely unexplored. Objective: To assess mental health changes in first time fathers as they transition to parenthood. Methods: Using the four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative, longitudinal study, we created a fixed-effect regression model to examined depressive symptoms (CES-D Wave 4: α = 0.79) in men transitioning into fatherhood between Waves 3 and 4 controlling for typical predictors (health, income, past mental health) and accounting for time in fatherhood. Results: 4642 men became fathers; 35% were new fathers (0-2 years), 20% were intermediate (3-4 years) and 45% were 5+ years. The average age was 28 years and 54% were White, 29% Black, 9% Hispanic, 5% Asian, and 3% Native American. Fatherhood status was found to independently increase depression scores for new fathers (p = 0.037) and intermediate fathers (p = 0.020) and was not significant for 5+ year fathers (FE model: X2 = 875.29, df = 13, p < 0.0001, R2 = 0.2686). Conclusions: Becoming a father increases depression scores in the early years of fatherhood which corresponds to critical periods in child development. This milestone along the lifespan may be an important place to consider ways to address fathers' mental health as a way to improve family and child health.

Learning Areas:
Clinical medicine applied in public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1.To assess mental health changes in first time fathers as they transition to parenthood in a nationally representative sample of young adults. 2.To discuss the implications of paternal mental health on family, partner, and child well being.

Keywords: Male Health, Adult and Child Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As a pediatrician-researcher, I have studied the role of fathers in families and the impact on men's health for the past 12 years. I have PI or co-PI on multiple NIH and foundation grants to examine the effect of the transition to fatherhood on men's health bidirectionally, that is, from parent to child and vice versa.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.