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Excessive crying in infants, otherwise known as colic, has been linked to symptoms of depression in the mother. Now a study conducted in the Netherlands links infant colic to depression in the father as well.
The finding that continuous paternal depression appears associated with increased risk for colic among infants, "might inspire future fathers with depressive symptoms to seek treatment," Dr. Mijke P. van den Berg told Reuters Health.
Van den Berg, of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, and colleagues assessed symptoms of depression in several thousand sets of parents when the mothers were 20 weeks pregnant. They found that about 12 percent of the fathers and 11 percent of the mothers showed signs of depression.
For example, they answered positively to questions about feeling lonely, blue, hopeless, or worthless; having "no interest in things," or having "thoughts of ending life," the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.
Later, when the infants of these parents had reached 2 months of age, the researchers assessed parental reports of excessive crying.
Overall, 4.1 percent of depressed fathers, compared with 2.2 percent of non-depressed fathers, had infants who cried for at least 3 hours daily on 3 or more days in the previous week. Corresponding figures among depressed and non-depressed mothers were 4.8 and 2.2 percent, respectively.
Excessive infant crying remained more prevalent among depressed fathers and mothers even after allowing for parental age, education level, and ethnicity; gender and number of children; and paternal smoking.
Moreover, adjustments for depressive symptoms among the other parent did not alter these findings.
Traditionally, research and clinical practice focused on the influence of maternal depression during and after pregnancy, whereas "this study shows paternal mental well-being should also be taken into account," van den Berg told Reuters Health.
Additional research is needed to attempt to "disentangle the possible mechanisms" associated with paternal depression and infant colic, noted van den Berg.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, July 2009.