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Psychol Health. 2014;29(6):717-35. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.885523. Epub 2014 Mar 5.

The impact of maternal postnatal depression on men and their ways of fathering: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.

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a Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds , Leeds , UK.



Postnatal depression affects approximately 15% of women in Western countries. There are conflicting findings about the effects on fathers as well as the extent to which fathers buffer against the negative effects of depression on children. This study sought to understand the ways in which maternal postnatal depression affects men and their ways of fathering.


Narrative interviews were conducted with 14 British fathers (mean age = 33.9 years) whose (ex)partners had experienced at least one episode of postnatal depression. Interviews explored how their partner's depression affected them, the partner relationship, their children and their ways of fathering. Data were analysed with interpretative phenomenological analysis.


Men felt that their partner's depression led to significant physical and/or psychological maternal absence as well as a fracturing of the family unit, which had been an important ideological foundation for men's fathering. Unequal divisions of labour, unfulfilled expectations, a thwarting of preferred ways of fathering and preoccupation with their partner's depression took some men away from fathering. Others reported adaptation by accepting the loss of shared parenting and investing in an exclusive father-child relationship. Fathering appears to be particularly affected by the loss of a close adult relationship.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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