Original Paper

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 47, Issue 12, pp 1907-1916

First online:

Father mental health during the early parenting period: results of an Australian population based longitudinal study

  • Rebecca GialloAffiliated withParenting Research Centre Email author 
  • , Fabrizio D’EspositoAffiliated withParenting Research CentreMurdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • , Daniel ChristensenAffiliated withTelethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia
  • , Fiona MensahAffiliated withMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteDepartment of Paediatrics, The University of MelbourneClinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Royal Children’s Hospital
  • , Amanda CooklinAffiliated withParenting Research Centre
  • , Catherine WadeAffiliated withParenting Research Centre
  • , Nina LucasAffiliated withParenting Research CentreMurdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • , Louise CanterfordAffiliated withMurdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • , Jan M. NicholsonAffiliated withParenting Research CentreMurdoch Childrens Research Institute

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The primary objective of this study was to report on the occurrence of mental health difficulties for a large national sample of Australian fathers of children aged 0–5 years (n = 3,471). Secondary objectives were to compare fathers’ mental health against normative data for the general male adult population, and to examine the course of mental health problems for fathers across the early childhood period.


Secondary analysis of data from the infant cohort of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children at three waves when children were 0–12 months, 2–3 and 4–5 years. Comparative data on the prevalence of psychological distress in the Australian adult male population sourced from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.


Approximately nine per cent of fathers reported symptomatic or clinical psychological distress at each wave, as measured by the Kessler-6. Approximately 30 % reporting distress at wave 1 continued to report distress at a similar or worse level across waves 2 and 3. Fathers not living with their children also had high rates of distress (14 % at wave 1 and 10 % at wave 2). Finally, fathers in the present study had 1.38 increased odds (95 % CI 1.12–1.69) for psychological distress compared with the Australian adult male population.


Fathers are at risk of experiencing postnatal mental health difficulties, which may persist across the early childhood period for some fathers. The results suggest routine assessment of fathers’ wellbeing should be undertaken in the postnatal period with mental health interventions and support provided across the early childhood period.


Fathers Postnatal Distress Depression