Feature

Health scare of the week: Depressed dads tend to spank

A survey of more than 1,700 fathers of 1-year-olds found that 7 percent of them had suffered “major depression” since their child’s birth.

Fathers, like mothers, can suffer from postpartum depression, which negatively affects how they treat their infants. A new survey of more than 1,700 fathers of 1-year-olds found that 7 percent of them had suffered “major depression” since their child’s birth. Those fathers were four times more likely to spank their child—and half as likely to read to him or her—than fathers who were not depressed. Child-development experts say children as young as 1 are unlikely to understand spanking as a punishment and can be accidentally injured. The study authors note that more than 80 percent of all fathers attend their babies’ wellness checkups with a pediatrician, suggesting a missed opportunity for depression screening and support. “This wasn’t on our radar screen for a long time,” Craig F. Garfield, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, tells WebMD.com. Now, because unemployment is a major risk factor for depression and a “disproportionate number of men” have lost their jobs, he says, it’s urgent that pediatricians “start to consider Dad.”

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