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There is considerable variability in developmental outcomes of children whose mothers experience depression. Few longitudinal studies have examined contributions of paternal involvement in the association between maternal postnatal depression (PND) and offspring development. We examined pathways from maternal PND at 8 weeks (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; total score) to offspring emotional and behavioral development at 7 years (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; total score) through behavioral, affective, and cognitive dimensions of paternal involvement in a U.K.-based birth cohort (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; n = 3, 434). Analyses were adjusted for baseline confounders and paternal PND (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; total score) as an intermediate confounder. Maternal PND was strongly associated with offspring development, but this association was not mediated by the combination of all indirect pathways through various dimensions of paternal involvement. Only father–child conflict emerged as a risk factor for adverse offspring development and as a mediator in the association between maternal PND and offspring development (albeit the effect size was small). If found causal, interventions that reduce father–child conflict may reduce the risk of adverse development in offspring of mothers with PND.

Original publication




Journal article


Developmental Psychology

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