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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2007 Sep;41(9):718-25.

First-Time Fathers' Study: psychological distress in expectant fathers during pregnancy.

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Department of Psychiatry, Westmead Hospital, Wentworthville, NSW, Australia.



High levels of distress have previously been reported among expectant fathers, with the level of distress for new fathers falling after the birth and during the first year of their infants' lives. The aim of the present study was to report on the associations with the fathers' initial high levels of distress.


The men completed a series of questionnaires on various aspects of their psychological functioning at a baseline assessment when their partners were in the late first trimester of their pregnancy. The General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28) was the key measure of psychological distress for the present study. Men scoring >5 on the GHQ were considered to be cases of distress. The cases and non-cases were contrasted on the baseline psychosocial measures.


A total of 312 men completed the questionnaires, of whom 18.6% were designated as cases. GHQ caseness was associated with high levels of symptoms on other measures of psychological distress, higher levels of alcohol consumption, poorer quality of their current intimate relationship, poorer social support, a lower quality of life, high levels of neuroticism and the use of immature ego defences. Multiple regression analysis identified the key variables associated with psychological distress to be high levels of neuroticism, dissatisfaction with social support and an excess number of additional life events.


Psychological distress among expectant fathers is associated with a range of psychological variables, particularly poor marital relationship and poor social networks. This is consistent with a general vulnerability model for psychological distress. Fathers who had insufficient information about pregnancy and childbirth were also at risk of being distressed, suggesting that more attention needs to be paid to providing information to men about their partner's pregnancy, childbirth and issues relating to caring for a newborn infant.

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