The Influence of Paternal Depressive Symptoms on Fathers’ Parenting, Father-child Attachment and Children’s Outcomes During Pre-school and School Years
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
There are papers included in this thesis hat is being submitted for publication or currently under review. Therefore, I would like this information to currently not be available.
Background: Understanding of child development is predominantly based on maternal influences on children’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes. Although there has been an increase in research focus on fathers in recent years suggesting that fathers are important in the development of their child, there is still a shortage of research on fathers in the literature. Research has shown fathers negatively impact on their children’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive development, but there is a lack of understanding regarding the specific mechanisms through which paternal depression influences their children. The aim of the current PhD is to address this gap in the literature and this is done by: a) investigating the prevalence of depressive symptoms among fathers of children (aged 9 months – 7 years) and their associated risk factors; b) investigating the association between paternal depressive symptoms and different aspects of parenting such as warmth, conflict and involvement; c) testing whether fathers’ parenting mediated any association between paternal depressive symptoms and children’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes; and d) investigating the association between paternal depression/depressive symptoms and insecure father-child attachment. Methods: There are two methods employed for this PhD. One is secondary data analysis of the large and representative Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) (investigating a, b and c) and the other is primary data analysis of the Fathers-in-Focus (FIF) study using interview and observational methods to investigate (d). Results: Paternal depressive symptoms peak during the first year of children’s lives and then gradually decline between the first year and 7 years old (a). These depressive symptoms across the first 7 years of fatherhood were consistently associated with maternal depressive symptoms, relationship conflict and unemployment (a). Moreover, depressive symptoms in the first year were associated with father-child conflict, but not father-child warmth or involvement in parenting activities (b). Father-child conflict mediated the association between paternal depressive symptoms and children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes (c). Finally, father’s depressive symptoms were not associated with father-child attachment or children’s cognitive development (c and d). Conclusion: The key finding of this PhD is that father-child conflict is an important factor that may be associated with the risk transmission of paternal depressive symptoms and children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes. Therefore, it may be beneficial for service providers and clinicians to target interventions with depressed fathers’ and at-risk families.
PhD in Psychology