Associations of paternal postpartum depressive symptoms and infant development in a Chinese longitudinal study.Infant Behav Dev. 2018 11; 53:81-89.IB
Although fathers actively provide infant care and support to their partners in modern societies, data on fathers' difficulties and mental health problems is still limited. This study examined paternal postpartum depression and its adverse impact on infants, and the possible mediating role of father-infant attachment in the link between fathers' depressive symptoms and infants' outcomes. Pregnant women and their partners were recruited from the antenatal clinics of two public hospitals in Hong Kong. Information about paternal and maternal depression, paternal-infant attachment, and infant development were collected at antenatal period, 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Linear regression was employed to examine risk factors for paternal depression symptoms, and mediation analysis was conducted to examine the mediating mechanisms. 121 couples joined the longitudinal study and completed all the assessments. Paternal postpartum depression symptoms were associated with fathers' prenatal depression symptoms, and mothers' postpartum depression symptoms. Fathers with postpartum depression symptoms experienced reduced paternal-infant attachment, which also acted as mediators between postpartum depression in fathers and adverse infants' social development. Effective assessment and interventions targeted at preventing or identifying and reducing paternal postpartum depression and improving father-infant relationship would help to lower the risk of infant disorders and poor development. Strategies improving the fathers' mental health during antenatal period and their partner's psychosocial well-being may also reduce paternal postpartum depression.