The association between characteristics of fathering in infancy and depressive symptoms in adolescence: A UK birth cohort study

Jonathan Scourfield, Iryna Culpin, David Gunnell, Caroline Dale, Carol Joinson, Jon Heron, Simon M. Collin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Evidence suggests that the quality of fathers’ parenting has an impact on psychological outcomes during adolescence, but less is known about which aspects of fathering have the strongest effects. This study, using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), considers which paternal attitudes towards and experiences of child care in infancy are most strongly associated with depressive symptoms in adolescence, and whether father effects are independent of maternal influence and other risk factors. Primary exposures were fathers’ attitudes to and experiences of child care at 8 weeks, 8 months and 21 months coded as continuous scores; the primary outcome was self-reported depressive symptoms at 16 years (Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire score ≥11). Multivariable logistic regression models showed reasonably strong evidence that parental reports indicating potential paternal abuse when children were toddlers were associated with a 22% increased odds of depressive symptoms at age 16 (odds ratio [OR] 1.22 [95% CI 1.11, 1.34] per SD). There was some evidence for an interaction with social class (p = 0.04): for children living in higher social class households (professional, managerial and technical classes), an increase in the potential abuse scale increased the odds of depressive symptoms by 31% (OR 1.31 [1.13, 1.53] per SD), whereas there was no effect in the lower social class categories. The potential paternal abuse measure needs to be validated and research is needed on what circumstances predict anger and frustration with child care. Effective interventions are needed to help fathers cope better with parenting stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date1 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Structured keywords

  • SASH


  • Father involvement
  • Attitudes
  • Child care
  • Abuse
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Adolescents


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