Interaction between mother's and father's affection as a risk factor for anxiety and depression symptoms--evidence for increased risk in adults who rate their father as having been more affectionate than their mother.
BACKGROUND: Retrospective reports of low care from either parent are found to be associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression in adulthood. Furthermore, fathers are generally reported as having been less caring than mothers, which raises the issue of whether greater care from fathers across the whole population would benefit mental health. METHODS: A community survey was carried out in Canberra, Australia, with 2404 adults aged 20-24 and 2530 aged 40-44. Respondents retrospectively reported on affection shown by their parents and on other aspects of family functioning. These data were analysed in relation to risk for anxiety and depressive symptoms and neuroticism. RESULTS: Retrospective reporting of greater affection from both fathers and mothers was generally associated with fewer anxiety and depression symptoms and lower neuroticism. However, there was a significant interaction effect, such that mental health was worse in families where the father was reported to show a higher level of affection but the mother a lower level. Such families were found to have a range of problems, including higher rates of emotional problems in the parents, conflict in the home, parental separation or divorce, and parental mistreatment. These family problems accounted for much of the interaction effect observed. CONCLUSIONS: Greater affection from the father is not always associated with lower risk for anxiety and depression. Where the father is more affectionate than the mother there tends to be increased family problems and increased risk. It is possible that family problems lead fathers to show increased affection to their children or mothers to show reduced affection.
Jorm, AF; Dear, KB; Rodgers, B; Christensen, H
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