Dads with 'postnatal' depression are more likely to fix on negatives and be more critical of themselves when talking to their new babies, according to research.

Researchers at Oxford University looked at the speech of new fathers with depression in their early interactions with their babies and found that dads with depression were more negative about themselves and their infants in their speech in comparison to fathers who weren't depressed.

The research is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Around 4-5% of dads are thought to get depressed in the postnatal period, about half the rate for mums. And, as with postnatal depression in mums, it has been shown that their children are at increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems.
One way that depression could affect the children is in changing the way dads interact with their babies. So the researcher set out to compare the speech of depressed fathers to their three-month-old children with fathers who were not depressed.
The researchers found the proportion of comments showing some negativity rose from an average of 11% among dads without depression to 19% in dads with depression. The proportion of the dads' comments that were focused on the baby dropped from 72% to 60%, while the proportion that focused on themselves rose from 14% to 24%.
In addition, they found that depressed dads' words focused more on themselves and their experiences, and less on the infants. Examples included: 'I'm not able to make you smile'; 'Daddy's not as good as Mummy'; 'Are you tired?'; 'Oh-oh, Daddy hasn't lasted very long, has he?' and 'Can't think of anything to do all of a sudden'.
Dr Vaheshta Sethna, first author of the study at the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who has since moved to the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said that it is possible that babies will pick up on their dad's negativity, even early in life. "For example, the baby may have to respond differently to get attention," she said.
Lead researcher Dr Paul Ramchandani of Oxford University said: "We want to try and work out the processes that lead to poorer outcomes in the children so we can work out where parents can be helped out.
"More research has been done with mums with postnatal depression and there are a range of early interventions to help them in the way they talk and play with their babies. Depression in fathers is less well recognised and fewer fathers tend to come forward for help.
"Interventions are often based on playing parents video feedback on how they are with their babies. We can show parents how their children are communicating back, helping them recognise this and respond."
Ramchandani added that the next research step is to investigate whether differences in the way fathers talk to their babies' leads to poorer emotional development and behavioural problems later.
He concluded: "It's important to remember that depression among parents doesn't mean that the children are going to have problems. Most do not."
This article originally appeared on our sister site posted 16/04/2012 by