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Depression in Dads Linked to Emotional, Behavioral Problems in Kids

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Depression is known to run in families, but most of the research has focused on the influence of moms.  Now, a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics suggests children of depressed dads are more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, such as feeling sad or acting out.

The study, based on a survey of nearly 22,000 children aged 5 to 17 and their parents, found that 11 percent of children whose fathers had symptoms of depression had emotional or behavioral problems, compared with only 6 percent of children whose parents had no depressive symptoms.

"What's even more remarkable than the results is the fact that this had never been looked at before," said study author Dr. Michael Weitzman, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center.  "I think fathers are underrecognized in terms of the impact they have in families and in children's lives.  It behooves us to try and devise clinical services that would identify fathers that are depressed and figure out ways to link them to services."

The rate of emotional or behavioral problems rose to 19 percent in children who had a mother with depressive symptoms, and 25 percent for children of two depressed parents.

While depression is known to have strong genetic roots, it is also thought to change how parents interact with their kids.

"The same things that make parents excited about their kids when they feel good can exacerbate their depression when they're unhappy," said Weitzman.  "One can only postulate that treating the parents could have a positive effect on their children."

Alan Kazdin, professor of psychology and director of Yale's Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, said the study affirms the role of both parents in children's well-being.

"This may be the first study in fathers, but it fits in with a lot of other studies," he said.  "It's nice to see we're getting away from just bashing moms."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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