By Meg Meeker
A new study published this week in the journalPediatrics found that the mental health of expectant fathers is important to the happiness and well-being of their babies. We have long known that the emotional health of expectant mothers has a profound effect on babies, but now we know that a dad’s mood affects babies too.
The study looked at over 30,000 children from Norway and followed them from their mother’s pregnancy into their third year of life. When the mothers were 17 or 18 weeks pregnant, fathers were asked to fill out a form describing their stress levels and in particular, their levels of anxiety and depression.
After the children were born, the researchers followed the children’s behavior and emotional health. When the children were three years old, the researchers found that the paternal psychological stress was significantly associated with a child’s behavioral and emotional difficulties in addition to their social functioning. The children whose fathers were less stressed had fewer behavior problems than those whose fathers struggled with anxiety and depression. This finding is very important because it shows us once again how critically important the role of a father is on his child’s psychological health.
This is important for us mothers to know. Far too often we feel that we alone are responsible for our child’s happiness. During pregnancy we try to eat right, get enough sleep, stay away from alcohol, etc., but it’s nice to know that our child’s father affects child’s behavior in a huge way, too. Common sense tells us that a father’s mood affects many things about our kids, and it’s nice to see this spelled out in black and white.