You are here

Dads’ Mental Health Linked to Unborn Child’s Behavior Later


During pregnancy, it’s all about the mom-to-be—what she's eating, whether she’s exercising, and how she’s taking care of herself to best nurture her growing baby.

But according to the latest research, dads might need prenatal attention too. A study published in the current issue of Pediatrics finds that that the mental state of a dad-to-be during pregnancy can impact a child’s behavior later. Among more than 30,000 children in Norway, 3 percent of fathers reported high psychological stress around weeks 17 or 18 of the pregnancy, which was later strongly linked to behavioral problems in the child at age 3. The worse the stress, the worse the behavior later. 

Plus: Diary of a Stay-at-Home Dad

But how could a father’s mental health impact a growing fetus when he’s not carrying the child? It may be a domino effect, with the father’s stress triggering similar emotions in the mom, which then in turn affects the baby. In fact, another study found the biggest predictor of depression in moms was living with a depressed spouse. Researchers also theorize the connection could just be a harbinger of a chronic mental problem, which other studies have shown can impact a child’s behavior.

How much does dad’s mental state seem to affect your child? Leave a comment.