Dad's Bad Mood Affects Kids, Big Time

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
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Study links dads’ stress levels to kids’ development

Parenting is stressful business. Not only do your kids often drive you crazy, the responsibility of caring for them, and providing for them, adds layer after layer of anxiety and frustration to your daily life. It’s worth it, of course, because you love your kids so much, but that actually makes it worse. Your children are so important to you, it makes everything else more important too.

The pressure of taking care of your kids is intense. But a new study proves that its important to take of yourself too. Especially dads.

According to a new study out of Michigan State University, scientists have determined that kids’ mental and behavioral development is strongly linked to their fathers’ moods. I guess I’d better stop watching the Dolphins play.

In some ways, the news from this study is heartening. As more and more dads take on bigger parenting roles, it’s important for studies like this to reinforce the impact fathers have on their kids, positive and negative. Moms may still be Queen Parent, but dads play a significant role too.

“The findings contribute to the small but growing collection of research affirming the effects of fathers’ characteristics and father-child relationship qualities on children’s social development, rather than just the fathers’ residence in the home or presence in the child’s life.”

The study stresses (pun!) that fathers have more impact on their sons’ language skills, which probably explains why my five-year-old has been swearing so much lately. Most significantly may be the news that dads’ depression symptoms while their children are toddlers impact their kids’ social skills more strongly than their mothers’ symptoms. Which is all the more reason for men to keep stock of their head-space, and not be ashamed of speaking to a professional about it.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, your macho stoicism is meaningless in the face of potential negative repercussions for your children.

The hilarious part of all this is now that science has weighed in on the effect our anxiety has on our children, the pressure is on even more.

Not only am I already stressed out by my kids’ daily, often infuriating behavior, and stressed out by the dream-crushing burden of having to care for and provide for my kids for say, the next twenty-to-thirty years, now I’m extra stressed because a bunch of scientists determined that if I let it show that I’m stressed out, I might be messing up my kid for life. It’s a big delightful stew of anxiety, fear, and guilt.

Parenting FTW!

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news. In some ways, it’s actually fairly obvious. Every parent, moms and dads, learns pretty quickly that our kids take their cues from us. If we’re stressed, our kids can tell, and are often on edge or acting up as a result, and when we’re happy, they’re happy.

Every parent wants the best for their children, both in the short-term and the long. One of the best things we can do for them is make them feel secure, and shield them from the burdens of adulthood as long as possible. Sometimes that means faking it when you’re not feeling it. Which is a small price to pay for a children to grow up happy and well-adjusted.

So smile, dads. Your kids are watching.

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