Depressed new dads more likely to spank their kids

Boston: New dads who suffer from depression are three times more likely to spank their babies than those fathers who have a happier state of mind, a new study says.

Depressed fathers are also less likely to be involved in everyday parent-child activities like reading to their children, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

Researchers interviewed 1,746 fathers of one-year olds from 20 large cities in the US on how often they played with, sang to and read to their kids, whether they had spanked their kids in the last month and whether they had spoken to their child`s medical provider in the past year.

The study, that appears in the April edition of the journal Pediatrics, also assessed the level of depression in the new fathers.

The study found that seven per cent of the fathers had depression. Of those, 41 per cent said they read to their child at least three times a week as compared with 58 per cent of fathers who were not depressed.

About 41 per cent said they had hit their toddler in the last month as compared with 13 per cent of fathers who had raised their hands on their kids but were not depressed.

The incidence of paternal depression seems highest during the first year of parenting, the study says.

The study said a child of one year is "developmentally unable to connect the dots.They can`t connect the spanking to whatever behaviour they have done," it said.

The study said spanking such young children is more likely to cause injuries to them and the children would also probably not understand why they are being hurt.

The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes striking a child for any reason, and says spanking leads to agitation and increased aggression in preschool and school children.

However, 77 per cent of depressed fathers said they had talked with their children`s doctor in the past year. The study said visits to the babies` doctors may provide an excellent opportunity for physicians to discuss parenting habits with fathers and refer any depressed dad for appropriate treatment, if necessary.

Surprisingly, the most depressed fathers, along with non-depressed dads, reported regularly playing games and singing and talking to their kids.

"Fathers` active roles in families and their mental health clearly influence child development and well being," the study states.

"The field of pediatrics is now faced with finding ways to support fathers in their parenting roles much in the same way we support mothers.