Sensitive Fathering Buffers the Effects of Chronic Maternal Depression on Child Psychopathology

Adam Vakrat, Yael Apter-Levy, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Maternal depression across the first years of life carries long-term negative consequences for children’s well-being; yet, few studies focused on fathers as potential source of resilience in the context of chronic maternal depression. Utilizing an extreme-case design, a community birth cohort of married/cohabitating mothers (N = 1983) with no comorbid risk was repeatedly tested for maternal depression across the first year and again at 6 years, leading to two matched cohorts; 46 mothers with chronic depression and 103 non-depressed controls. At 6 years, mother and child underwent psychiatric diagnosis and mother–child and father–child interactions observed. Partners of depressed mothers exhibited reduced sensitivity, lower reciprocity, and higher tension during interactions, particularly among children with psychopathology. Maternal depression increased child propensity to display Axis-I disorder upon school-entry by fourfold. Sensitive fathering reduced this risk by half. Findings underscore the father’s resilience-promoting role in cases of maternal depression and emphasize the need for father-focused interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-785
Number of pages7
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Child psychopathology
  • Fatherhood
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Maternal depression
  • Parent–child interaction


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