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Sad dads who spank

 
Just like moms, dads can be depressed. And they tend to spank more too.

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Article originally in
About 40% of depressed fathers in a survey said they'd spanked their 1-year-olds, versus just 13% of fathers who weren't depressed. Most dads also had had recent contact with their child's doctor - a missed opportunity to get help, authors of the study said.

The American Academy of Paediatrics and many child development experts warn against spanking children of any age. Other studies have shown that kids who are spanked are at risk of being physically abused and becoming aggressive themselves.

The researchers said spanking is especially troubling in children who are only 1, because they could get injured and they "are unlikely to understand the connection between their behaviour and subsequent punishment."

The study

The authors analysed data on 1,746 fathers from a nationally representative survey in 16 large US cities. Depression among fathers is strongly tied to unemployment rates, which are much higher now than a decade ago, he said.

The men were questioned about depression symptoms, spanking and interactions with their 1-year-olds, but weren't asked why they spanked or whether it resulted in physical harm.

Overall, 7% of dads had experienced recent major depression.

Some likely had a history of depression, but in others it was probably tied to their children's birth, similar to postpartum depression in women.

Postpartum depression is more common in women; by some estimates as many as 25% develop it shortly after childbirth. Severe cases have been linked with suicide and with deaths in children.

With fathers increasingly spending time on child care, including taking their kids to routine doctor visits, it's important for paediatricians to pay attention to dads' mental health. Close to 80% of depressed and non-depressed dads had recent contact with their child's doctor, according to the study.

First-hand experience


Chris Illuminati, a New Jersey writer and stay-at-home dad with a 1-year-old son, says he read postpartum brochures the paediatrician gave his wife during an office visit. He said he found himself silently answering yes to questions about symptoms.

Illuminati said he'd never experienced depression, but starting from the time his son was a few months old, he began feeling unusually down, sleep-deprived, trapped and resentful toward a baby who slept fitfully and had disrupted his life.

The 33-year-old father stressed that he loves his little boy, and has never spanked him, but has felt the frustration that might lead others to do so.

"There have been times where I've wanted to, but I've pulled back," Illuminati said.

Illuminati said he had been finding ways to avoid his son once his wife got home from work, and realized he probably needed help. "I didn't know who to talk to. I felt like a wuss if I mentioned it to anyone," he said.

Blogging about fatherhood helped, he said, and his sadness has mostly subsided now that his son is older.

"It should be studied," Illuminati said. "The hardest part is going to be getting guys to talk about it... or even recognize it."

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