Dads Play Key Role in Kids' Mental Health

Important when mother is suffering, study says

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TUESDAY, Aug. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A father's good mental health can greatly reduce the negative impact of a mother's poor mental health on children's behavior and well-being.

That's what Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center researchers report in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

"If a mother and father are depressed, the odds that a child will have behavioral or emotional problems go up eightfold," study author Dr. Robert S. Kahn, a physician/researcher in the division of general and community pediatrics, said in a prepared statement.

"The risk is less elevated if only the mother reported poorer mental health and not elevated at all if only the father reported poorer mental health," Kahn said.

The study also found that when both a mother and father have mental health problems, the influence on behavioral problems in their children is especially strong in boys.

Khan and his colleagues examined data from a survey of families of 822 children, aged 3 to 12.

"Many studies have shown that poor maternal mental health has negative impacts on their children's behavior and emotional health," study co-author Dr. Robert C. Whitaker said in a prepared statement.

"Rarely have studies used information about the mental health of both parents to assess outcomes in their children. This study suggests that what happens to children's well-being when their mothers suffer mental health problems depends on whether the father is healthy," Whitaker said.

More information

The U.S. National Mental Health Information Center has more about child and adolescent mental health.

SOURCE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, news release, Aug. 2, 2004

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