Children with depressed fathers are at increased risk for developing depression themselves when they reach adolescence, according to a Lancet Psychiatry study.
The study included nearly 14,000 two-parent families in the U.K. and Ireland. The parents completed depression questionnaires when the children were roughly 7–9 years old, and then the children completed depression assessments when they were about 13–14 years old.
After adjustment for confounders, including maternal depression, adolescents’ depression scores increased significantly as fathers’ scores increased. For example, each 3-point increase in fathers’ depression score (on a 24-point scale) was tied to a 0.24-point increase in adolescents’ depression score (on a 26-point scale). Fathers’ depression increased risk in offspring to the same extent as mothers’ depression.
The researchers note that “current interventions for preventing adolescent depression focus largely on mothers,” whereas this study suggests that “the priority should be the treatment of depression in both parents.”