Depressed dads have depressed kids? What new study shows

Even if they're not experiencing clinical depression, men with low testosterone often feel down or blue. They feel less optimistic than they used to feel. iStockPhoto

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(CBS) Do sad dads make for sad kids? A new study shows that children of depressed fathers are more likely to develop emotional problems of their own.

PICTURES: 10 bad habits that can cause depression

"For years we've been studying maternal depression and how it affects children, but the medical community has done a huge disservice by ignoring fathers in this research," study author Dr. Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatric medicine at New York University, told CNN. "These findings reinforce what we already assumed - that fathers matter, too, and they matter quite a lot."

For the study, researchers used survey data to look at emotional and behavioral problems in 21,993 children between the ages of five and 17. The researchers found that children of depressed dads were 33 percent to 70 percent more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, depending on how the increased risk was assessed.

Those are certainly significant numbers. But the researchers pointed out that children of moms with mental health problems are 50 percent to 350 percent more likely to have problems of their own.

The study makes no attempt to explain the links between paternal mental health problems and childhood emotional and behavioral problems. But Dr. Rahil Briggs, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told HealthDay that depressed parents may be unable "to respond to a child's requests and needs in a consistently reliable and empathic manner. Depressed parents may also struggle to help their children regulate their own emotions, which may lead to poor social-emotional development," he added.

Whatever explains the link, the author of the study concluded that their findings are worrisome given how common adult mental health problems are. Seventeen percent of women experience major depression at some point, along with nine percent of men.

The study was published online Nov. 7 in the journal Pediatrics.

WebMD has more on depression in men.

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