Moms have a huge influence on their children. And, usually, that's a good thing. But, what happens when mom is seriously depressed? When she's doing all she can just to keep her own head above water, and has little time or energy to devote to the kids?
Studies show that children whose mothers suffer from major depression are at an increased risk for multiple emotional problems themselves. The potential emotional difficulties cover a broad range, including depression, aggression, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
"My study corroborates findings from previous research that a child is at increased risk of problem behaviors when the mother is depressed," said Jen Jen Chang, Ph.D., of Saint Louis University School of Public Health. Dr. Chang recently reported the results of her study on the role of fathers in household with depressed mothers.
There is some good news.
Dr. Chang found that children of depressed moms do better when fathers are actively involved. This is welcome news - it's unusual to read much these days that touts the positive role of dads. She assessed the dad's involvement by asking the children a series of questions about their interaction with their dad. She asked if dad talked over important decisions with them, listened to their side in arguments, knew where they were when they were away from home, and other questions.
"Once we factored in a father's positive involvement, I observed that the adverse impact of the mother's depression was attenuated," said Dr. Chang. "The father served as a buffer."
Though a fully functional and healthy family is ideal, this is still very good news.
So, dads, step on up. You've been recast from the role of bumbling dolt to that of effective guide and caregiver. Get busy...To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about being an effective dad, see this from the National Fatherhood Initiative.