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Paternal mental health and socioemotional and behavioral development in their children.

ABSTRACT

To examine the association between symptoms of psychological distress in expectant fathers and socioemotional and behavioral outcomes in their children at age 36 months.The current study is based on data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study on 31 663 children. Information about fathers' mental health was obtained by self-report (Hopkins Symptom Checklist) in week 17 or 18 of gestation. Information about mothers' pre- and postnatal mental health and children's socioemotional and behavioral development at 36 months of age was obtained from parent-report questionnaires. Linear multiple regression and logistic regression models were performed while controlling for demographics, lifestyle variables, and mothers' mental health.Three percent of the fathers had high levels of psychological distress. Using linear regression models, we found a small positive association between fathers' psychological distress and children's behavioral difficulties, B = 0.19 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.15-0.23); emotional difficulties, B = 0.22 (95% CI = 0.18-0.26); and social functioning, B = 0.12 (95% CI = 0.07-0.16). The associations did not change when adjusted for relevant confounders. Children whose fathers had high levels of psychological distress had higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems.This study suggests that some risk of future child emotional, behavioral, and social problems can be identified during pregnancy. The findings are of importance for clinicians and policy makers in their planning of health care in the perinatal period because this represents a significant opportunity for preventive intervention.