A new study of depressed fathers of 1-year-olds discovered that they spent less time reading to their babies and were nearly four times more inclined to spank than the fathers who were not depressed. Moreover, Forty-one percent of the depressed dads spanked their 1-year-olds in the last month. The study was conducted at the University of Michigan and published in the journal Pediatrics. The data was supplied by 1,746 fathers who participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The research was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This long-running study is following nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000.
I’m really not surprised. The less happy we are, the less we play with the kids, the fewer positive interactions we have with them. This often gives rise to dubious behavior on the part of children which leads stressed parents towards even more stressed out, thus doling out unacceptable responses. Even Dads who hate spanking, and know the reasons not to spank can find themselves challenged when they’re feeling depressed and defeated so they find them selves beating their kid’s butts” (their phrasing) instead of cuddling, reading, and playing.
The AAP warns that spanking in children under 18 months of age increases the risk of injuring them. It also cautions that in older children, frequent spanking is associated with an increased risk of violence.
Is your husband (or are you) exhibiting more punishment and less bonding fun when depression kicks in?
How to spot depression in children
Kids who are chronically or extremely stressed (think abuse), who experience loss (such as a death or divorce in the family) or who have mental, behavioral or certain physical disorders are at higher risk for depression.
Having a parent who is depressed is the single biggest risk factor for a child becoming depressed. There is some genetic influence, though the impact is compounded by the depressed parent’s diminished ability to respond to the child’s emotional needs.
Rates of depression are about equal among boys and girls until around 11 years of age. During adolescence, girls become twice as likely as boys to experience bouts of depression. Perhaps girls are just more conditioned to be reflective about themselves. For instance, more teenage girls than boys worry about matters such as appearance, popularity, safety, friendships, romance, family problems and self-worth.
Young children likely won’t recognize when they feel depressed, but parents can look for telltale signs. A depressed child may lack energy, show little emotion, withdraw from people, appear hopeless and have trouble sleeping. School-aged children may complain of physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches and have changes in appetite. They may lose interest in their friends and the activities that used to be fun for them.
Teens may sleep a lot more than they normally would, they may move or speak more slowly than usual, hallucinate or have delusions. (All of which can also be signs of substance abuse.)
Although it’s rare, some children can be so depressed that they want to die. Even mild depression can have a significant long-term impact on a child’s development.
So it’s important to seek professional help through your pediatrician, school psychologist or community mental-health professional when you observe one or more of the behavior changes listed above, especially if they occur suddenly and persist.
A physician should always rule out the possibility that depression may be caused by a serious medical condition. Diagnosing and treating the physical illness could relieve the psychological symptoms.
Once depression is identified as the problem, individual and family therapy may be useful. Treatment may include the well-supervised use of antidepressant medication.
All of us should heighten our attention, sensitivity and response to the ways our children communicate their inner feelings. You might be the one who helps a child out of a tunnel of darkness into the light.
To learn more about the ills of spanking, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.