Fathers who have depression may pass symptoms to their kids, study suggests

Photo (c) Image taken by Mayte Torres - Getty Images

This was true even for mixed and adoptive families

When one person in a family experiences depression, it's important that they get support from the rest of the household. Unfortunately, new research suggests that depression symptoms can spread among family members under certain circumstances.

Findings from a recent study suggest that children who have fathers with depression may develop similar symptoms and behavior issues over time. Interestingly, the researchers found that fathers and their children did not have to be genetically related for this to happen.

"A lot of research focuses on depression within biologically related families," said Penn State professor Jenae Neiderhiser. "Now more information is becoming available for adoptive families and blended families."

Depression and behavior problems 

The researchers came to their conclusions after studying over 700 families who participated in the Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development study. Family members were asked to answer questions about depression symptoms, behaviors, and parent-child conflicts. The team then took that data and examined how fathers' depression symptoms were related to their children's behaviors.

The researchers found that there was a link between depression and behaviors between fathers and children, even in blended families where there was no genetic link. They say conflicts between fathers and their children may be a factor that causes depression or behavior problems in young people. However, further studies would likely be necessary to determine a causal link.

"It would be great to do more studies on step and blended families," said Neiderhiser. "They tend to be an underutilized natural experiment we could learn more from to help us disentangle the impacts of environmental factors and genetics on families."

The full study has been published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.

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