Characteristics of fathers with depressive symptoms

David G. Rosenthal, Nicole Learned, Ying Hua Liu, Michael Weitzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extensive research shows maternal depression to be associated with poorer child outcomes, and characteristics of these mothers have been described. Recent research describes associations of paternal depressive symptoms and child behavioral and emotional outcomes, but characteristics of these fathers have not been investigated. This study describes characteristics of fathers with depressive symptoms in the USA. Utilizing data from 7,247 fathers and mothers living in households with children aged 5-17 years who participated in theMedicalExpenditure PanelSurvey 2004-2006, the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 was used to assess parental depressive symptoms, the Short Form-12was used to examine paternal and maternal physical health, the Columbia Impairment Scale was used tomeasure child behavioral or emotional problems, and the Children with Special Health Care Needs Screener was used to identify children with special health care needs. In multivariate analyses, poverty (AOR 1.52; 95% CI 1.05-2.22), maternal depressive symptoms (AOR 5.77; 95% CI 4.18-7.95), living with a child with special health care needs (AOR 1.42, 95% CI 1.04-1.94), poor paternal physical health (AOR 3.31; 95% CI 2.50-4.38) and paternal unemployment (AOR 6.49; 95% CI 4.12-10.22) were independently associated with increased rates of paternal depressive symptoms. These are the first data that demonstrate that poverty, paternal physical health problems, having a child with special health care needs, maternal depressive symptoms, and paternal unemployment are independently associated with paternal depressive symptoms, with paternal unemployment associated with the highest rates of such problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Child behavior
  • Child emotional problems
  • Paternal depressive symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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