Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Much of the research on parenting and its influence on child development has emphasised the mother's role. However, increasing evidence highlights the important role of fathers in the development, health and well-being of their children. We sought to explore the association between paternal involvement in early child-rearing and depressive symptoms in 9 and 11 year-old children. METHODS: We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort recruited in the southwest of England. The outcome was depressive symptoms measured using the short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire (sMFQ) score. The main exposure was father involvement measured through factor analysis of fathers' responses on their participation in, understanding of, and feelings about their child's early upbringing. Scores on factor 1 measured fathers' emotional response to the child; scores on factor 2 measured the frequency of father involvement in domestic and childcare activities; scores on factor 3 measured fathers' feelings of security in their role as parent and partner. RESULTS: Children of fathers with high scores on factors 1 and 3 had 13% (OR 0.87, 95%CI 0.77-0.98, p = 0.024) and 9% (OR 0.91, 95%CI 0.80-1.03, p = 0.129) respectively lower adjusted odds of depressive symptoms at 9 and 11 years. For factor 2, there was weak evidence of a 17% increase in odds of depressive symptoms associated with 1 unit higher factor scores at both ages (OR 1.17, 95%CI 1.00-1.37, p = 0.050). LIMITATIONS: In these observational data, the possibility of residual confounding in the association between the exposure and the outcome cannot be ruled out. CONCLUSION: Positive psychological and emotional aspects of father involvement in children's early upbringing, but not the quantity of direct involvement in childcare, may protect children against developing symptoms of depression in their pre-teen years.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





115 - 122


ALSPAC, Child-rearing, Depression, Father involvement, Fathers, Adult, Attitude, Child, Child Rearing, Depression, Emotions, England, Factor Analysis, Statistical, Father-Child Relations, Fathers, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Parenting, Surveys and Questionnaires