The roots of paternal depression: Experienced and nonexperienced trauma or Folie a Deux?

Sari Goldstein Ferber, Katharina Braun, Aron Weller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The transition to fatherhood may be challenged with anxiety and trepidation. A high prevalence has been found for paternal depression and it is reactive to maternal depression. This review aims to address potential sources of paternal depression, which may have adverse consequences on child development. We describe through three hypotheses how fathers may be at risk of depression during the transition to fatherhood: (1) psychological (interacting with ecological systems); (2) brain functional∖structural changes; and (3) (epi)genomic. We propose that paternal stressful experiences during the transition to fatherhood may be the source for paternal depression through direct stressful paternal experiences or via (potential, currently debated) nonexperienced (by the father) epigenomic transgenerational transmission. On the other hand, we suggest that resilient fathers may undergo a transient dysphoric period affected by identifying with the newborn's vulnerability as well as with the mother's postpartum vulnerability resulting in “paternity blues.” In accordance with recent views on paternal “heightened sensitivity” toward the infant, we propose that the identification of both parents with the vulnerability of the newborn creates a sensitive period of Folie a Deux (shared madness) which may be a healthy transient, albeit a quasi-pathological period, recruited by the orienting response of the newborn for survival.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22197
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research in AW's lab is supported by the Israel Science Foundation grant no. 1781/16 and the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology grant no. 3–15689.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC


  • brain plasticity
  • epigenetics
  • paternal depression
  • resilience
  • stress exposure
  • transition to to fatherhood


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