Mobile Toggle
btn-shop-fathersourcehomepage-btnbrn-free-resources
rsstwfbenews

The Father Factor

subpage-image

Dads And Depression: Are You Passing Your Symptoms To Your Children?

I can admit to the Father Factor readers that I’ve struggled with depression over the years, with therapy and group sessions aiding me through the rough patches. Various things happened over the course of my life that led to my diagnosis, but I tried hard to mask the pain. This is a dangerous practice done by lots of people, especially men. This could prove to be even more troubling if you happen to be a father.

There is a disturbing lack of research showing what being a depressed father does to children in the home– until recently. A study undertaken by NYU researchers found that one out of every four children who are raised in a home with depressed parents soon develop mental health issues of their own. This nationwide study captured data from 7,247 US households where the parents and children all lived. Of that number, 6% of the fathers showed results that suggested they were depressed.

Further numbers in the research paper show other alarming stats: 15% of children with a depressed father showed symptoms; 20% of children with a depressed mother showed symptoms and, lastly, 25% of children living with two depressed parents showed symptoms. Factors influencing the depressive symptoms in parents included poverty, joblessness, and having a child with special health care needs.

Amazingly, this is the first large study done on male depression as it relates to fatherhood although there is plenty research on maternal and postpartum/postnatal depression. One could suggest that men are typically insular with their emotions and cope silently. Another point could be that many men don’t even know where to go for resources. When was the last time you saw a men’s mental health care center in your neighborhood? Do you know of any outreach groups doing work on a large scale?

I can tell you from my own experience that finding help for my depression was an epic task. I called therapists and counselors who all had many female clients but barely any male patients. Finding groups to talk about my issues also proved difficult, as I scoured the Internet and newspaper classifieds for assistance. Eventually, I did find some help.

It was important for me to move beyond my depression as a father. I know that my child watches every move, so it became necessary for me to make sure she doesn’t repeat my mistakes. If we want to make certain as fathers and parents to not pass on bad physical health habits, we have to start including our mental health in that equation as well.

Are you, or a father you know, suffering with depression? Do you think fathers pass on bad mental health habits to their children? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us at: @thefatherfactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.

Minnie Driver And The Curious Case Of The Hidden Father

Image courtesy of Splash News

I became a fan of English actress Minnie Driver after her star turn in Good Will Hunting in 1997. Driver’s good looks and charm had her seemingly poised for stardom. She then starred in the box office flop Hard Rain, and while she kept acting in smaller films and TV, nothing came close to the fame she gained working on Good Will Hunting.

I read a story from British newspaper The Observer which featured Driver offering a revealing look into her private life. Before now, Driver had been mum about the identity of her three-year old son’s father. She was still vague in her revelation during her interview, only opting to say there isn’t much to the story.

"We weren't together and he wasn't directly in the business," she said. “So I chose to protect him and not have a rain of publicity. I know, but it's ridiculous. He's not famous. There's no big story. I don't need to protect him anymore. He can fend for himself. He's a grown-up.”

The unnamed mystery dad was a writer on short-lived television series The Riches of which Driver was a co-star. Driver shared some opinion of the father’s parenting duties. “He's figuring it out. I mean, he hasn't been that involved; his choice. But he is now,” she said.

Driver’s cavalier decision to keep the father out of the limelight may be a manifestation of her own upbringing. Driver’s father was a married man with a family who had no idea that Minnie and her sister existed. Although Driver’s mother was her dad’s mistress, she doesn’t seem to hold any ill will towards her father for his choices. She even compared herself to her father, neatly saying he “lived his life.”

For Minnie's son, Henry, one can only hope that his mom and dad will become effective co-parents and allow a relationship to build as it should. Driver has seen many mistakes up close when it comes to fatherhood. It would make sense for her to include her son’s father in raising their child. While I find it curious that Driver shared the news after hiding the facts for three years, perhaps this is her attempt in giving Henry a chance to know his father in the best ways possible.

Father Factor readers, what do you think about Minnie Driver’s decision to speak openly about her son's father? Tell us in the comments below or tweet to us at @TheFatherFactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.

Are Dads Still Second-Class Parents?

I just read on the New York Times' parenting blog, Motherlode (we will discuss this title later...), that the U.S. Census Bureau considers the time that fathers spend at home caring for children while mom works "child care," but does not do the same for the time when mom is home with the kids and dad works. This is because the Census Bureau considers moms the "designated parent." So mom's time caring for kids while dad is away is "parenting" and dad's time is... something else.

The Times does not agree with this assessment. Nor do we. But should we really be surprised?

I mentioned we would discuss the title of the New York Times' own parenting blog. It is called Motherlode. Isn't that an assumption, in and of itself, that mothers are to be considered the primary parent? The tagline of Parenting magazine was, until very recently, "What Matters to Moms." Parenting books are written for moms. The tagline of the book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is, "This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs." This was a married mother with the father living in the same home, but he is apparently a lower life form than the two dogs. Most brands in their advertising pretend that dad does not make any family purchasing decisions (although a few notable exceptions, like Tide and Nissan are cropping up). The list goes on.

In other words, our culture surrounds us with messages - some intentional, some not - that moms are still the more important parent. So, we should not be terribly surprised by how the Census Bureau views this issue. After all, the government typically reflects cultural values and is not usually on the cutting edge of changing them.

But back to what the Census reporting is doing... Motherlode aptly points out that mothers are just as much a victim of this mentality. As their post says, mothers are "on the hook every time" when it comes to taking care of kids. In that sense, moms are the victims of their own success - they fought to achieve the status of being able to raise families in any situation, but now there is an expectation that they always will, and dad is off the hook.

This is not empowering to dads, moms, and, most importantly, to children who deserve to have both moms and dads responsibly and equally involved in their lives.

What We Can Learn From French Parents

This Saturday's Wall Street Journal had an article titled, Why French Parents Are Superior. Before I even read it, I knew there would be something to blog about...

Turns out that the reason the writer, Pamela Druckerman, believes that American parents have something to learn from the French is actually pretty simple (and I agree with her!). The article's thesis is summed up in this line: "They [the French] assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this."

You would think that most American parents would "get" this, but with the introduction of terms like "hyperparenting" and "helicopter parenting" entering the vernacular in recent years, it is clear that our culture (at least our middle-class culture) has become too "child-centric."

Here at NFI, we often say that the most important relationship in the house is the one between mom and dad. If they are doing well, they are more likely to do well by their children. Children get a sense of stability and learn how to relate to others by watching their parents. So, to serve children best, mom and dad must focus on their own relationship first.

So, in that sense, NFI has always espoused (pun intended) a "French" ideal. This is counter to the American ideal which seems to have placed the parent-child relationship at the center (mom-child, really), with all other relationships (mainly mom and dad's marriage) in heated competition for precious time and energy.

According to the Journal article, this reversal of relationship priorities appears to be causing problems in many American households, where kids throw tantrums and adults have little time to themselves. Meanwhile the French are ambling along nicely with well-behaved kids, stable marriages, and healthy adult time. This notion is summed up in another key line in the article: "To the French couple, it seemed like the American kids were in charge."

In my short time (two years) as a parent, I can say that I have seen some of this, and my wife and I are probably a little guilty of it at times. But this is where I may get in a little trouble with both my wife and moms at large: in my own experience - which the Journal article seems to support - it appears to be American moms who are piloting the helicopter in the helicopter parenting equation.

Dads are certainly passengers on the helicopter and must share some of the responsibility. But my impression is that dads have bought much less into the overparenting hype, but because our culture is set up to establish and support mothers as the "primary parent," mom's parenting paradigm wins out.

The Tiger Mom phenomenon illustrates this point nicely. "Tiger Mommying" is overparenting to the extreme. But, as we blogged about on this very blog last April, the fatherhood perspective was largely invisible during that debate.  Moreover, the Wall Street Journal soon after answered questions about the lack of dads in the discussion, which we also discussed on this blog. The writer of that response, Alan Paul, made this statement, which will get us back to the American vs. French parenting question: "To make a sweeping generalization, moms tend to be more detail oriented, and order driven. Dads often care less about the mess, can live with a bit more chaos and more easily adopt a big picture view."

So, America versus France...

What the American perspective does to dads is that they have to compete for attention from their wives, who are giving most of their time and energy to the kids. This is why one of the riskiest times for divorces is when all the kids have left for college: moms and dad have spent the last 18+ years pouring all of their love, energy, and attention into the kids and forgot how to love each other.

If what this new Journal article says is true, this is not happening as much in France. And that is a good thing for children, moms, and dads.

Tell us: is your parenting more American or French? What are the benefits (and disadvantages) of your approach?

Guest Post: A Reason to Smile

This is a guest post by Sean DeFrehn, the husband of NFI's Manager of Outreach, Brittany DeFrehn. Sean and Brittany just became first-time parents to a beautiful baby girl.

Did you know that infants can imitate expressions in their first few days of life? Not something that really mattered to me until a few weeks ago when I became a father. Since then it's almost all I can think about.

Smiling can effect so much in your life besides your mood; it can boost your immune system, reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and it even enhances others' perceptions of you and therefore your influence on them.

Being a father is my chance to give someone the best life I can, so I will fill her life with smiles.

Not just my smiles but those of our friends and more importantly her family. I can't control the members of our family, but I can control my interactions with them. To give the most to my daughter, I need to give the most to her family, especially her mother. Our relationship constantly and personally affects our daughter every day, and how I treat her mother will likely be what she looks for in a man.

So as I spend my day giving my all to my wife, our family, and our friends, and as the diaper changes at three a.m. make the days and nights long and difficult, I always keep this in mind: I won't let a moment go by without smiling because there is nothing better than my daughter smiling back.

Fatherhood is Like Real Estate

A new study has found that one in five American moms have kids with more than one birth father. This is disheartening news for a number of reasons, but the analysis provided by the MSNBC story in which I read about the study ignores the most important reason.

Let's take a step back for a moment. As NFI's president, Roland C. Warren, is fond of saying, "Fatherhood is like real estate. It is about location, location, location." In other words, where a father lives in relation to his kids makes an enormous difference in the quality of his relationship with them. In fact, the most influential variable that determines father-child relationship quality is co-residence. Furthermore, fully 40 percent (2 in 5) of kids who do not live in the same home as their fathers have had no contact with their fathers in the last year.

So, let's get back to the story and the study. In virtually every case in which a mom has children with more than one dad, she is not living with all of the dads. Therefore, some of her children are living apart from their fathers. In fact, what we know from research suggests that it is likely that none of her children are living with their father.

However, in the "analysis" of what this new data means, the MSNBC story says nothing, I repeat nothing, about how this trend will affect father involvement. The article essentially talks about the impact on moms. It mentions that it may have an impact on kids, but gives no specifics, and seems to suggest that the impact on children would only be the result of the impact on mom.

If the reporter had called us before she wrote the story, we would have certainly given her some data to show what happens, on average, when kids grow up without dads. Here are a ton of examples. I find it surprising that, given all we know about how father absence affects children, and all of the social and cultural "movement" taking place to renew fatherhood in America, that a story like this, in a major news source, can still be written. In my view, it completely misses the mark.

What do you think?

Where are the "Tiger Fathers"?

Many of you have probably heard about (or participated in!) the firestorm around the new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It is a memoir by author Amy Chua of what she calls the "Chinese way" she is raising her two, now teenage, daughters. Chua came to national attention when The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt from the book earlier this month called "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." I can't imagine why that title would spark controversy...

Either way, I just read the Time magazine cover story about her book here, and something interesting emerged. You would think that Chua's own mother inspired her Chinese mothering. But all of the examples she cites of how she learned to parent the "Chinese way" come from her father. She remembers her father as her inspiration. Yet, it does not seem that she is suggesting that today's fathers (or her own husband) have anything to do with the parenting approach she has adopted. It seems she has assumed that it is the mother's role to engage in "Chinese parenting."

I wonder why.

Maybe it is because real life Chinese fathers are not expected to be involved in the day-to-day care of their children? Maybe she also assumes that American fathers are even less likely than American mothers to adopt her approach? I would like to do more research to see what she thinks the father's role should be -- her own husband, a non-Chinese American, was the softer parent in their household.

Would she say that there is a fatherhood equivalent to the Chinese mother? She did not expect her husband to be that way even though her father was that way.

As I read the Time article, it did not answer my questions about Chinese mothering. It raised new questions about what Chua would have today's American fathers do.

Are you a "Chinese father"? What do you think of Chua's parenting techniques?

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

Search Our Blog

Topics