Paternal depression during the postnatal period may occur with similar frequency to maternal depression, according to research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Data were extracted from the Child Health Improvement Through Computer Automation (CHICA) system, which administers a 20-item prescreening form to parents prior to pediatric wellness visits. The prescreening form contains a 3-item version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to capture depression in respondents. Researchers added to the CHICA form a question that identified the family member who completed the form and used response data to assess depression symptomatology in both mothers and fathers.

Among 9572 analyzed clinic visits, fathers attended 2946 (30.8%) and completed the prescreening form for 806 (8.4%). Fathers were less likely to attend the wellness visit when children were older, non-Hispanic black, and Medicaid eligible. Among fathers who completed the form, 36 (4.4%) were classified as positive for depression compared with 5.0% of mothers. Of all parents who screened positive for depression, 11.7% were fathers.

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Researchers noted that CHICA assessed symptoms only in the survey respondent and thus could not capture depression in fathers who did not complete the prescreening form. These data indicate that paternal depression is a substantial burden for the parent population and warrants research into appropriate intervention methods.


Cheng ER, Downs SM, Carroll AE. Prevalence of depression among fathers at the pediatric well-child care visit [published online July 23, 2018]. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1505