Parental Depression and Child Well-being: How Do Fathers Matter?

Kevin Shafer , Brigham Young University
Andrew J. Renick, Brigham Young University
Alex Wambach, Brigham Young University

Parental depression can significantly impact children. Prior research has focused mostly on the impact of mothers on young children, ignoring fathers and a broad range of children’s ages. Theories addressing paternal depression have considered three possible ways it affects children: the spillover effect, where maternal depression is buffered by fathers; the interactive effect, where maternal and paternal depression work together to negatively impact children; and the independence hypothesis, where maternal and paternal depression have unique, independent effects on children. We use three pooled longitudinal panels of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) to test these models on three measures of child (age 5-17) behavior problems. The results show no support for the spillover, nor interactive models, suggesting that maternal and paternal depression have unique effects. Our results highlight the importance of fathers and the need for additional work on the unique influence of fathers on child health and wellbeing.

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 Presented in Session 181. Fathers and Families