One in five Australian dads experience depression or anxiety after having kids
31 August 2018
One in five fathers say they have suffered symptoms of depression or anxiety since having children. And of these, nearly one in 10 feel they have experienced postnatal depression, according to findings from one of the largest groups of Australian fathers ever surveyed on parenting.
The findings, part of a new analysis of research of 2600 parents and more than 1000 fathers conducted by the Parenting Research Centre, found levels of depression and anxiety in equal measure – with 18% of dads reporting depression and 19% reporting anxiety since having children.
“The best fathers’ day present we can give Australian dads this Sunday is to consider as a nation how we can better help men make the transition to parenthood,” said Parenting Research Centre Principal Research Specialist Dr Catherine Wade.
“This would also be an important gift to Australia’s children because we know from research that the way a child grows and develops is powerfully affected by their parents’ mental health. And dad’s mental health is just as significant as mum’s.
“When fathers experience mental illness, their children are at higher risk of behavioural and emotional difficulties.”
The survey findings show that fathers with poorer mental health:
- Were less likely to feel effective as parents
- Were more likely to feel they were too critical of their children and had less patience
- Were more likely to wish they spent more time with their children
- Felt they were less consistent in their parenting
- Were less confident in helping their children at school.
The findings also show that even though men were more likely than women to be positive about the amount of support they received from their partners, fewer dads overall felt there was someone they trusted who they could turn to when having problems. Dads were also less likely to seek out parenting programs and formal support, preferring to do their own research about parenting, and mostly online.
“Our research highlights that we need to routinely address fathers’ – as well as mothers’ mental health when designing and delivering services for parents – particularly new parents,” Dr Wade said.
“We also need to work on ways to better engage dads both in parenting support services and in early education and schools. We can help dads by giving them strategies to help them navigate confidently through both the smooth and the rough seas of parenting.”
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