Study finds dads' moods impact their children's long-term mental health
Keep your stress under control.
You know how being around someone who is in a bad mood can really leave you feeling exhausted? I don't know about you, but I find that people who tend to have a negative attitude and be moody are almost like energy vampires. As in; they suck the joy and happiness out of not just themselves, but also those around them.
And as it turns out, adults aren't the only ones picking up on this.
According to a new study from Michigan State University, published in the journals Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Infant and Child Development, researchers found a particularly strong link between dads' moods and mental health and kids' mental health and behaviour.
The study looked at 730 families, mainly low-income, and their parenting-related stress. Using questionnaires that asked participants to rate statements like, "I feel trapped by my responsibilities as a parent" or "Sometimes I feel my child doesn't like me," researchers determined that when dads are significantly stressed and show depressive symptoms, toddlers' language development is adversely impacted.
What became clear, was that kids with stressed or depressed dads had poorer language skills at age three. And while both genders scored lower on cognition tests, interestingly, dad's parenting-related stress and mental health seemed to impact sons' language development more than daughters', according to Psychology Today.
Even more interesting is that even when a mum's positive influence was taken into account, dad's mood still mattered.
The study also found that fathers' and mothers' mental health, in general, had a similarly significant effect on behaviour problems among toddlers. However, interestingly, fathers' depression during their kids' toddler years were more influential on children's later social skills than their mothers' symptoms.
Lead researcher Claire Vallotton, Ph.D., associate professor of child development at Michigan State University, commented on the findings in a statement, saying, "There's this whole idea that grew out of past research that dads really don't have direct effects on their kids, that they just kind of create the tone for the household and that moms are the ones who affect their children's development. But here we show that fathers really do have a direct effect on kids, both in the short term and long term."
The takeaway of the findings for dads, according to researcher Tamesha Harewood, Ph.D., is simply this: "You're important to your children, so you need to take care of yourself." She adds, "Fathers shouldn't feel like they're 'less manly' because they need help."