Fathers postpartum depression affects language development


Language development is one of the essential developmental aspects of a child’s growth milestones.   However, language development does not occur in isolation, rather develops alongside a range of skills that impact the acquisition of communication skills.

These essential factors include environmental, educational, health and social factors which are responsible for impacting a child’s ability to develop language, achieve fluency or even acquire vocabulary or of which constitute mastery of language.

Apparently, the parent plays a significant role in the development of a child’s language or communication skills.  One significant inhibiting factor that may impede the process of a child’s language acquisition is thus the parents’ health status, and specifically mental health status. It’s a common phenomenon for a parent to experience postpartum depression, and this is more common in mothers, paternal postpartum depression is also real. Studies have consistently found that a parent’s postpartum depression can negatively affect the child’s developmental aspects, including language development.

Unlike the mere assumption that the mother-child interaction is all enough for the child’s developmental milestones, the father also plays a significant role. A father who is distant from the child may lack the opportunity to take part in influencing the child’s language development. Although he might be physically present, a depressed father might be emotionally absent to the child, which limits his ability to interact with the child and take part in the child’s language development, such as pronunciation of words, constructing a sentence, writing and other important aspects of language.

Postpartum depression inhibits child-father interaction. Apparently, one of the implications of depression is lack of interest, lack of empathy and other forms of emotional disconnections with the child. As a result, the father’s caregiving patterns to the child are negatively affected, with the father and the child having lesser interaction.

A father who closely interacts with the child is likely to have a better opportunity to talk with the child, impact of which is the child’s ability to acquire the father’s language and gradually develop vocabulary as taught by the father. The father’s role in language development is even larger in absence of the mother. However, a depressed father may not be interested in these roles and might evade the ‘hectic’ child’s rearing roles or responsibilities.

Depressed fathers are likely to be chaotic and emotionally uncontrolled. They may be ineffective in playing paternal roles like providing for the family and providing education for the child. These low moods might be transferred to the mother, evoking negative attitudes and stress-like emotions to the mother. The onset and escalation of maternal stress negatively affect the child’s development aspects, including emotional wellbeing, cognitive skills acquisition and language development. A stressed or depressed mother is likely to talk less to the child, which limits the child’s opportunity to acquire language skills, which are mostly acquired through mimicking.

Paternal postpartum depression has also been associated with increased risks of neurodevelopment problems in children.  For instance, a fetus who is constantly in the company of a depressed parent (father or mother) might suffer poor brain development, such as structure and organization of the brain. Particularly, it may affect the development of the amygdala, which plays a significant role in the acquisition and mastery of language in the child. Consequently, the child is likely to exhibit slow or delayed language skills, courtesy of the father’s depressive states.

 Causes of postpartum stress among fathers

A study by PSYCOM reveals that one in every ten fathers experience postpartum depression after the birth of their child. Although there are no specific factors that can be traced to have triggered postpartum depression in fathers, the following are common risk factors.

  • Birth of a firstborn

Postpartum depression is likely in new fathers after the birth of the firstborn. In many, the excitement of being a father is suddenly overshadowed by the realization that this new development means an increase of responsibility for several years. Intense thoughts of how and what it entails to raise such a small figure into an adult may translate into depression.

  • Multiple birth-such as twins, triplets, etc.

Many fathers enter into depression after the birth of multiple births, such as twins, triplets or more children. The risk is even higher if such an outcome was unexpected, or if the father is just only ready for one child. For some fathers, adjusting to this reality might take a while, during which they may struggle with short-term or long-term depression.

  • Financial difficulties

The birth of a child automatically exposes the breadwinner to a variety of financial responsibilities, which entail acquiring furniture and other basics of a child’s comfort and survival. The situation might become too much and the burden too heavy for a father if the birth occurred at a time when he just lost a job or experiencing financial difficulties.

  • Family problems, such as relationship disputes

The existence of family problems, such as a poor relationship with the mother may also present difficulties to the father. Sometimes, the tenacity of situation might be dire to a point that he is denied the chance to see his child, amidst the excitement. This might place him at risk for depression.

  • Birth of a child with special needs

The birth of a child with special needs might cause the father to exhibit depressive symptoms. The contemplation of what bringing up such a child might incite pressure on the dad.

  • Death of the mother

Some mothers meet their unfortunate death at childbirth or soon after, living the responsibility of the child to the father. This may trigger postpartum depression as the father will endure the pressure of multitasking at work and at home nursing the child.

What can you do?

It’s important to know that as a fathering usher you into a world of parenting responsibilities. Therefore, ensuring that you stay healthy is essential to your child as it provides the opportunity to nurture your child in developing well in all spheres. Therefore, avoid the various preventable causes of postpartum depression such as substance use, reckless behaviors like gambling, quarrel with your spouse, and lack of enough sleep.

More importantly, talk about your feelings. If feeling depressed, seek the help of a mental health professional and reclaim your health. A good state of mind will allow you to promote the well-being of your child, and especially, their language development.

Last Updated on September 22, 2021