Fathers’ psychological distress in early parenting
Giallo, R., Cooklin, A., Brown, S. Christensen, D., Kingston, D., Liu, C., Wade, C., & Nicholson, J. (2015). Trajectories of fathers’ psychological distress across the early parenting period: Implications for parenting. Journal of Family Psychology, 29, 766-76. doi/10.1037/fam0000109
Fathers’ parenting behavior is a likely key mechanism underlying the consistent associations between paternal mental health difficulties and poor emotional-behavioral outcomes for children. This study investigates the association between fathers’ mental health trajectories and key parenting behaviors (warmth, hostility, consistency) spanning the first 8-9 years postpartum. Secondary analyses of 5 waves of data from 2,662 fathers participating in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were conducted. Latent growth class analysis was used to identify distinct trajectories of fathers’ distress (Kessler-6; Kessler et al., 2003), and latent growth models estimated parenting warmth, hostility, and consistency. Multiple group analyses were conducted to describe and compare the course of parenting behaviors for fathers assigned to the distress trajectories identified. Two distinct classes of fathers were identified based on the trajectories of distress: minimal distress (92%) and persistent and increasing distress (8%). The latter group reported significantly lower parenting warmth when their children were 8-9 years and lower consistency and higher hostility across all study intervals. The postnatal and early parenting period is a critical time for the development of parenting behaviors that are important for children’s development. Engagement and support for fathers around well-being and parenting is vital for promoting optimal family and child developmental outcomes.