Fathers' postnatal distress, parenting self-efficacy, later parenting behavior, and children's emotional-behavioral functioning: A longitudinal study Academic Article uri icon


  • Fathers' postnatal distress has been associated with subsequent emotional and behavioral problems for children; however, the mechanisms by which this occurs have received less attention. One potential pathway could be via the negative effects that father mental health problems and parenting self-efficacy (PSE) in the postnatal period have on later parenting behaviors. Using a nationally representative cohort of Australian father-child dyads (N = 3,741), the long-term relationships between fathers' psychological distress and PSE in the postnatal period, parenting behavior when children were aged 4-5 years, and emotional-behavioral outcomes for children aged 8-9 years were explored. Path analysis indicated that high distress and low PSE in the postnatal period was associated with higher levels of hostile parenting and lower parenting consistency when children were aged 4-5 years; in turn, these were associated with poorer child outcomes at 8-9 years. These results remained significant after controlling for socioeconomic position, couple relationship quality, mothers' and fathers' mental health, and fathers' concurrent parenting behavior. The pathways among PSE, parenting hostility, parenting consistency, and children's outcomes at age 8-9 years differed for fathers of boys compared with fathers of girls. Results highlight the importance of father-inclusive assessments of postnatal mental health. Support programs targeting new fathers' perceptions of parenting competence may be particularly important for fathers experiencing postnatal distress. For fathers, building a stronger sense of parenting competence in the postnatal period is important for later parenting behavior, which relates to children's emotional and behavioral outcomes during middle childhood. (PsycINFO Database Record

publication date

  • 2016