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Sad Dads May Lead to Crying Infants

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

New research out of the Netherlands shows that a crying, colicky your-baby can be just as much the result of dad’s state of mind as mom’s.

Past studies have found that depression among mothers can be related to excessive crying or colic, a common problem with newborns, but the researchers said that little was known about whether fathers’ emotions and behavior also have an effect.

“Up to now, almost all attention went to the prenatal effects of maternal depression on child development, leading to the development of detection and treatment programs that focused on mental well-being of mothers,” said lead researcher Dr. Mijke P. van den Berg, a psychiatrist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. “This study showed the importance of taking paternal factors and well-being during pregnancy into account, next to maternal,” she said. Her report is published in the July 2009 issue of Pediatrics.

To see how parental depression was related to excessive crying, researchers gathered data on symptoms of depression among parents of 4,426 infants who were two months old. Excessive crying was defined as crying for more than three hours a day on more than three days in the past week. Overall, just 2.5 percent of the infants in the study fit the excessive crying criteria. But, the researchers found a 30 percent higher risk for depression among parents whose infant cried excessively.

“This finding could not be attributed to co-existing depressive symptoms of the mother, which is already known to be a risk factor for excessive infant crying,” van den Berg said. It could be related to genetics, a depressed father or, indirectly, through factors such as marital, family or economic stress, she said.

In fact, a dad with symptoms of depression was twice as likely to have an infant who cried excessively as was a dad who was not depressed, the study found.

“Fathers do matter, so take care for the mental well-being of fathers during pregnancy,” van den Berg said.

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