Anxiety Among Expectant Dads Can Influence Childhood Development

How much does the mental health of an expectant father influence the emotional and behavioral development of his unborn child? Norwegian researchers tried to find out.

After analyzing data collected from more than 31,000 Norwegian parents and children, including conducting interviews with the expectant fathers at the fourth or fifth month of their partners' pregnancies, and then following up with the children in question when they were at least 3 years old, the researchers were able to find a link between expectant fathers who experience high levels of depression, anxiety and fear prior to the arrival of their child and the children of these fathers having the greatest number of emotional and developmental issues.

Their work has been published in the journal Pediatrics, and according to lead researcher Anne Lise Kvalevaag of the Norway's University of Bergen:

"The results of this study point to the fact that the father's mental health represents a risk factor for child development, whereas the traditional view has been that this risk in large is represented by the mother. The father's mental health should, therefore, be addressed both in research and clinical practice."

Potential Explanations For This Link

There is, however, a big difference between identifying a link and proving some sort of cause and effect relationship, and these investigators were careful to note as much. They offered a couple of possible explanations, including genetic tendencies, passed along from father to child, as well as the father's anxiety negatively affecting the mother (in terms of hormones released, for example) and therefore affecting the unborn child — as has been shown in previous studies.

"The prenatal mental state of the father is likely to predict the postnatal mental health of the father, and this may also account for some of the associations found," added Kvalevaag.

Source: MNT
Photo: Pexels

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