Overview: Paternal depression may contribute to depression and behavioral problems in adolescents, regardless of whether the father and child are genetically related, researchers say.
Source: Penn State
Adolescent depression and behavioral problems are on the rise, and paternal depression may contribute to this increase, regardless of whether the fathers and children are genetically related, according to new research from Penn State and Michigan State.
“A lot of research focuses on depression within biologically related families,” said Jenae Neiderhiser, co-funded faculty member of the Social Science Research Institute and distinguished professor of psychology and human development and family studies at Penn State.
“More information is now becoming available for adoptive and blended families.”
The researchers looked at naturally occurring variations in genetic relatedness between parents and their adolescent children in the 720 families who participated in the Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development (NEAD) study, with more than half of those families having a stepparent raising children.
Mothers, fathers and children each answered questions to measure symptoms of depression, behavior and parent-child conflict. The researchers next examined the association between fathers’ depressive symptoms and children’s behavioral symptoms in a series of models.
Neiderhiser and Alex Burt, professor of clinical sciences at Michigan State, along with their colleagues found that paternal depression was associated with adolescent depression and behavioral problems in adolescents, regardless of whether the fathers and their children were genetically related.
“The results clearly indicated the transmission of depression and behavior through the environment between fathers and children,” said Burt, who has collaborated on projects with Neiderhiser since the early 2000s.
“In addition, we continued to see these associations in a subset of ‘mixed’ families in which the father was biologically related to one participating child but not the other, which was an important confirmation of our results.
“We also found that much of this effect appeared to be a function of parent-child conflict. These kinds of findings add to the evidence that parent-child conflict plays a role as an environmental predictor of adolescent behavior.”
According to Neiderhiser, while the results were expected, they also thought the effects on children’s behavior and depression would be greater in parent-child pairs who were genetically related.
“It would be great to do more research on stepfamilies and blended families,” she said. “They’re usually an underused natural experiment that we could learn more from to help us unravel the effects of environmental factors and genetics on families.”
About this depression research news
Original research: Closed access.
†Exposing the origins of the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology with a novel genetically informed designby S. Alexandra Burt et al. Development & Psychopathology
Exposing the origins of the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology with a novel genetically informed design
While it is well known that parental depression is passed down from generation to generation within families, the etiology of this transmission remains unclear.
Our aim was to develop a new research design capable of explicitly investigating the etiological sources of intergenerational transmission.
We specifically took advantage of naturally occurring variations in genetic relatedness between parents and their adolescent children in the 720 families participating in the Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development (NEAD) study, of which 58.5% included a parenting stepparent (almost always a parent). stepfather).
The results clearly indicated the environmental transmission of psychopathology between fathers and children.
Paternal depression was associated with adolescent depression and adolescent behavioral problems (i.e., antisocial behavior, stubborn behavior, and attention problems), regardless of whether fathers and their children were genetically related or not.
Moreover, these associations persisted in a subset of ‘mixed’ families in which the father was biologically related to one participating child but not the other, and appeared to be mediated through a father-child conflict.
Such findings are not only fully consistent with the environmental transmission of psychopathology across generations, but also add to the existing evidence that parent-child conflict is a robust and at least partial environmental predictor of psychopathology in adolescents.