Babies born to expectant fathers who are depressed or anxious are more likely to have emotional problems by the time they reach preschool age, according to a new Norwegian study of more than 30,000 children. The findings, say the authors, could provide new intervention opportunities for at-risk children during pregnancy. The results were reported online in Pediatrics and are based on surveys of expectant fathers and subsequent parent reports of behavioral difficulties, emotional difficulties and social functioning of their children at 36 months. Previous studies have linked fathers' mental distress during the postnatal period with behavioral and emotional problems in their children, but this is among the first to establish a connection during pregnancy. The authors hypothesize that the link could be caused by genetics; the indirect impact of the father's psychological distress on his pregnant partner, which could affect the baby; and/or the possibility that a father's prenatal mental health predicts his mental health in the postnatal period. Read the abstract.
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