Picture of Cindy-Lee Dennis

Examining the Impact of Paternal Postpartum Depression on Child Development

29 July 2013

Postpartum depression (PPD) and poor child outcomes are traditionally associated with new mothers but with recent grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis will examine the consequences of PPD in both mothers and fathers. The Impact of Maternal and Paternal Postpartum Depression: Assessing Concurrent Depression in The Family (IMPACT) study is the first study to follow over 4,000 new parents and examine the impact of parental depression in the first two years of a child’s life.  With a focus on understanding the mechanisms by which single (maternal or paternal) rather than ‘dual’ (maternal and paternal) PPD affect infant outcomes, the results will contribute to informing targeted interventions aimed at increasing parenting quality and preventing poor child development outcomes.

“Research that focuses on both parents, rather than mothers alone, to examine the onset, course, and consequences of postpartum depression (PPD) is urgently needed,” says Dr. Dennis. “Major depression can interfere with parenting quality and puts children at risk to develop mental, behavioural, and social problems beginning in the early infant environment.”

Growing evidence suggests child outcomes are not solely dependent on the mother and that fathers who do experience PPD can also have a negative influence on infant development.  As well, there is little to no evidence on “dual parental PPD” where both parents suffer from PPD at the same time and how that impacts child development.  Through the study, Dr. Dennis will address: 1) the mechanisms through which the risk of maternal, paternal and dual parental PPD translate into infant development outcomes 2) the prevalence, course and relationship between maternal and paternal PPD and 3) the clinical presentation of paternal PPD and compare it to maternal PPD.

For more information on Dr. Dennis’s work, please go here.