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BACKGROUND: Increasing evidence suggests that postnatal paternal depression is associated with adverse emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes in children. Despite this, few studies have determined the prevalence of fathers' depressive symptoms during the first few years of their children's lives and explored what factors are related to these symptoms. We estimated the prevalence and examined associated risk factors of paternal depressive symptoms in a nationally representative sample of fathers with children aged between 9 months and 7 years old from the Millennium cohort study. The risk factors examined were maternal depressive symptoms, marital conflict, child temperament, child gender, paternal education, fathers' ethnic background, fathers' employment status, family housing, family income and paternal age. METHODS: Secondary data analysis was conducted using the UK Millennium cohort study, which consisted of data from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland of families with infants born in the year 2000/2001. Data from four sweeps were used from when children in the cohort were aged 9 months, 3, 5 and 7 years old (n = 5155-12,396). RESULTS: The prevalence of paternal depressive symptoms over time was 3.6 % at 9 months, 1.2 % at 3 years old, 1.8 % at 5 years and 2.0 % at 7 years (using Kessler cut-off points to categorise high depressive symptoms vs low depressive symptoms). Linear regression trends (using continuous measures of depressive symptoms) indicated that both paternal and maternal depressive symptoms decreased over time, suggesting similar patterns of parents' depressive symptoms after the birth of a child, but the decrease was more evident for mothers. Paternal depressive symptoms were consistently associated with fathers' unemployment, maternal depressive symptoms and marital conflict. Socioeconomic factors such as rented housing when child was 9 months and low family income when child was 5 and 7 years were also associated with higher paternal depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Paternal depressive symptoms decreased among fathers when their children were aged between 9 months to 3 years old. Paternal unemployment, high maternal depressive symptoms and high marital conflict were important risk factors for paternal depressive symptoms. In light of our findings, we would recommend a more family centred approach to interventions for depression in the postnatal period.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Public Health

Publication Date





Depressive symptoms, Fathers, Paternal, Unemployment, Adult, Age Factors, Child, Child, Preschool, Cohort Studies, Depression, Postpartum, Depressive Disorder, Employment, England, Fathers, Female, Housing, Humans, Income, Infant, Male, Mothers, Northern Ireland, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Scotland, Socioeconomic Factors, Wales