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Dave, S., Nazareth, I., Sherr, L., and Senior, R. (2005). The association of paternal mood and infant temperament: A pilot study. The journal of British Psychological Society, 23, (609) 609-621.
Article Review of “The Association of Paternal Mood and Infant Temperament”: A pilot Study
The authors of the journal conducted and experiment to investigate how maternal depression is associated with adverse child development. A lot of information is available on maternal depression unlike paternal depression and mood state. The authors assessed the relationship between paternal mood and infant temperament.
Mostly the period after childbirth usually presents many challenges for new parents and their children. This is what is identified as the postpartum period which lasts about six weeks or more until the mother has gone through the childbirth blues. It is not a very interesting period as the baby was used in an enclosed environment and they have now been born to this world that is not familiar to them. This comes with a lot of challenges for both parents and their siblings and also the new born children. The parents are adjusting both physically and psychologically to the process of child bearing as well. This particular period you will also find the new born children are uncomfortable are they are mostly fussy. Emotional fluctuations are very common for mothers in the postpartum period and hence the authors wanted to understand the relationship of the parental mood and their children temperament where parents were happy and in good mood the temperament of the children was equally good.
The authors carried the study on ninety eight (98) fathers of new born babies. The fathers were at first screened for depressed mood using the (Hospital anxiety and depression scale, and Edinburgh postnatal depression scale).
At the sixth month the authors checked out for parent mood, infant temperament, couple relationship quality, alcohol use, adverse life events and parenting to find out how the fathers were fairing with the level of depression depending on the situation they were facing. The authors found out that children were less fussy when their parents were in a good mood than the reverse.
The article is about a study to explore the relationship between children development when they are fussy and their parents’ moods on how they influence development in children. We know through experience especially as a parent, children who are fussy can make parents depressed causing a lot of anxiety, despair and unrest in many parents mostly they are not sure why the child is all fussy.
According to (Guerin; Gottfried 1994; Lee ; Bates, 1985; Wolkind ; De Salis, 1982), they state that a difficult infant temperament is a risk factor for behavioural and emotional problems later in childhood.
It was noted that maternal depression can affect infant outcome as early as in the first postpartum months (Murray, 1992). The effects of maternal depression are thought to be mediated by the reduced ability of the depressed mother to interact and communicate appropriately with her infant (Murray ; Cooper, 1997). The infant, being highly sensitive to this, can respond with distress and avoidance, leading, for example, to attachment insecurity (Martis ;Gaffan, 2000; Murray and Cooper, 1997). The effects of maternal depression early in infancy can persist later into childhood, affecting the social and cognitive development of the child (Cogill et al., 1986; Murray et al., 1999).
A description of the methodology
This was a pilot study meaning it was the first time they were carrying out the study on the fathers they did not have any work that had been done before to build up on what they were doing. The study was cross sectional in nature, the subjects could not be determined.
In this article, the authors identified London district hospital which has approximately 2,800 deliveries per year as their sample site. The fathers who were present on the postnatal ward during the 20 days of recruitment were used as the subjects of the study. The study excluded any new born babies who were underweight who were admitted to the special care baby unit. The study was quite specific as they only picked fathers who had a biological parentage on the new born, who were residing with their infant and partner, and who were proficient in English. This was helpful for the authors as they would get the right information other than from fathers who are not living with their new born as they were measuring the level of depression on the fathers and not the mother so it was necessary to have fathers who were living with their new born children.
They authors used two recruitment methods on alternate days a researcher was placed in the post-natal ward where they did the face to face recruitment. The fathers who were present in the ward between 11.00 and 13.30 were approached by the researcher. If the researcher did not find the father they would ask the mother when they would be expected to show up so that the researcher could go back and talk to them. This was a good approach for the researcher as they had time to explain to the fathers and maybe mothers what their study was about and it was a good way of getting consent from the fathers. The fathers were able to know what was expected of them. The study was a real one I tend to think the fathers felt appreciated considering that mothers are known to have postpartum depression and people assume it does not get to the fathers. After the face to face recruitment was finished the eligible fathers were contacted by post within 4-6 weeks after birth and the recruitment pack was sent to them addressed to the specific fathers I feel the recruitment pack took quite some time getting to the fathers I do not know why the authors choose the duration of 4-6 weeks to send the recruitment pack yet that is the period with in week the postpartum depression happens. Maybe the fathers were reporting what they felt or had gone through with their new born children. However the fathers who consented to take part in the study were requested between the 4-6 weeks after the birth, to complete the Hospital Anxiety and depression Scale (HADS, which is a standardized instrument used to screen for depression and anxiety (Zigmond ;Snaith, 1983), and the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale (EPDS; Cox, Holden, ; Sagovsky, 1987) which is used to screen for post natal depression in women and has been validated for used among fathers of infants (Matthey, Barneet, Kavanagh, ; Howie, 2001) that provides a DSM IV diagnosis of depression and anxiety.
The study measured the infant temperament using the fussy – difficult scale where the mother or the father or both completed the questionnaire. They also assessed the couple relationship dynamics this was checking on the quality of the relationship the overall scale had a good construct validity and good internal consistency. I feel giving a questionnaire that was checking on the quality of the couple’s relationship was important as they would also determine the temperament the child. The study also assessed the father – child interaction and father attitudes the fathers were asked to record the amount of sole contact and shared contact with their child on each day. They also checked on the alcohol use and stressful life events. The authors also checked on employment status, the parent’s ethnicity and housing. When children are brought up in a good environment they develop well as they already have the needs they require met by their parents hence they are comfortable.
The authors noted that the fathers who were recruited face to face returned their questionnaires well as compared to those who were sent by post-recruitment. The author also found out that none of the fathers with depressed mood responded at the 6 month follow- up. It was noted that overall depression scores were low in fathers and slightly higher among the mothers.
The author has adequately established the significance of postpartum depression in fathers. Based on the study they have conducted, the authors have discussed and made some analysis and also explanation of the study and how they have carried out the study. From this article the authors have noted that depression scores were low in fathers and slightly higher among the mothers.
In my opinion, this study has been done in a small scale way and this is an exploratory study. This was the first study on paternal mood and infant development. A further research is required that is sampled in such a way that it does not discriminate fathers who are already out of hospital and they have new born infants who are not necessarily in the London District General Hospital considering they could be other hospitals in that location. I find the study sample used to be very small which reduces the power to detect true group differences. However in this study a strong and robust association between paternal mood and infant temperament was observed maybe it would have been stronger if the sample size was larger and more generalized and open to other fathers.
Discussion of implication of study
According to the authors an interesting finding arising from the study is the strong association between more negative paternal mood and difficult infant temperament, where fathers with relatively higher depressed mood had infants with, on average, a 3 point higher infant fussiness. Numerous studies have reported a relationship between concurrent maternal depression and difficult infant and toddler behaviour (e.g. Cox, Puckering, Pound, ; Mills, 1987; Teti ;Gelfand, 1991).
In my opinion, one of the reasons it is important to measure the level of depression in new parents is that most people assume that depression only gets to the mother and fathers are also affected as much as the study shows that it is higher in mothers than fathers it is important to acknowledge that fathers do get depressed even after child birth.
A further study would be a good idea especially using the longitudinal study design that will study the paternal mood over a period of time so that the research findings can be more sufficient.