Hands-on dads are 'less likely to suffer baby blues' because they 'feel more ...

Hands-on dads are less likely to show signs of depression in the first year of the child's life, a new study says. 

US researchers asked a racially diverse selection of fathers on their levels of parental involvement and general symptoms of depression. 

They found greater time spent with the infant during the week was associated with lower paternal depressive symptoms in the first year after birth. 

Fathers can help avoid symptoms of depression even just by having more confidence in their ability as a dad or making sure they're regularly stocking up on provisions for their baby. 

The experts call for more lenient paid paternal leave policies to help dad spend more time with their child, which can benefit their workers' mental health in the long run.   

A father's involvement in the parenting of an infant is associated to a lower risk of experiencing paternal depressive symptoms during the first year of the child's life, according to the study

A father's involvement in the parenting of an infant is associated to a lower risk of experiencing paternal depressive symptoms during the first year of the child's life, according to the study

'We found that fathers who were more involved with their infants shortly after their birth were less likely to be depressed a year later,' said study author Dr Olajide N. Bamishigbin Jr at California State University. 

'In our paper, we suggest a few reasons that greater father involvement in parenting would lead to less depression in fathers. 

'For example, fathers who are more involved during infancy may feel more competent as parents and be more satisfied in their role as parents over time, and this could contribute to lower depressive symptoms.' 

Dr Bamishigbin highlights the importance of paid paternal leave policies, which give fathers the opportunity to be more involved with their kids and gain confidence as a parent without having to worry about their economic security.

'[This] may help allow fathers more opportunities to be involved with their kids and be part of shaping healthier and thriving future generations,' he said.

'In turn, this may improve the well-being of the entire family.' 

Estimates from prior analyses indicate that approximately 8 to 10 per cent of men experience depression during the transition period to parenting and during early fatherhood.

The highest prevalence of depression is between three to six months after the birth. 

Prenatal and postnatal depression among fathers is also around twice as high as the prevalence of depression among men in general, according to another study. 

However, no known study had examined the link between early paternal involvement and later paternal depressive symptoms following the birth of a child. 

To learn more, the team conducted home interviews with 881 low-income ethnically and racially diverse fathers from five different sites in the US, one month after the birth of their baby.

In particular, they examined three parenting indicators – time the father spent with the infant, parenting self-efficacy and material support for the infant. 

Estimates from prior analyses indicate that approximately 8 to 10 per cent of men experience depression during the transition period to parenting and during early fatherhood

Estimates from prior analyses indicate that approximately 8 to 10 per cent of men experience depression during the transition period to parenting and during early fatherhood

Parenting self-efficacy is the belief in one's own ability to care for offspring, while material support is the 'procurement of economic resources and being a provider for the family'. 

To judge time spent with infant, for example, fathers responded to questions including 'on an average weekday from Monday to Friday, do you spend any waking hours with your baby?' and 'on an average weekend day do you spend time alone with your baby?'

For self-efficacy, they were asked 'how confident or comfortable you feel when you hold your baby, put baby to sleep, wash or bathe baby, change baby’s diaper, feed baby, and soothe baby when he or she is upset'. 

And for material support, fathers reported how often they provided baby clothing, medicine, baby furniture and other childcare items.    

The experts then assessed paternal depressive symptoms at regular intervals – one, six and 12 months after birth – using the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS).

EPDS features a range of questions relating to depression post-birth with multiple choice answers, ranging from 0 (no, not at all) to 3 (yes, all the time) – with a lower score indicating lower depressive symptoms. 

The team estimated whether the three indicators of father involvement after birth predicted lower

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