More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Decreasing closeness with dad linked to symptoms of depression, study finds
Wed Feb 16, 2005

TORONTO (CP) - Fathers need to be involved with kids beyond the years of bedtime stories as teens can experience symptoms of depression if they feel dad is becoming less affectionate, a new study suggests.

"Young people who reported that their relationship with their father had increased in closeness, understanding and affection over time were more likely to have lower scores of symptoms of depression at ages 16 and 17, compared with young people who responded that their relationship got worse," said the Statistics Canada study released Wednesday.

Young people on average perceived more closeness in their relationship with their mother than their father.

The study, which examined the changes in young people's relationships during adolescence, found the more positive the relationship they have with a parent, the more positive their mental well-being.

"Even though parents' influence (during a child's adolescence) drops off on a whole bunch of things and is replaced by peer influences and kids' own independent choices, that doesn't mean that the emotional intimacy and connectedness between parents and children is unimportant through the teenage years," said Edmonton psychologist George Lucki, chair of the Alberta Alliance on mental health and mental illness.

"(It's) something people sometimes underestimate."

While many studies have looked at relationships teens have with parents, treating parents as a single unit, Tracy Bushnik, author of the Statistics Canada report, said this "study was trying to look at symptoms of depression among youth with respect to relationships with their mother and father separately."

The study also found youth who reported getting on well with their peers had fewer symptoms of depression.

"The relationship with their parents and their relationship with their peers were equally significant in terms of reported depressive symptoms," Bushnik said from Ottawa.

The study was based on data from 908 young people in the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Those selected for this study had been interviewed every two years since 1994-95. Two time periods were considered: when the youth were aged 14 and 15 in 1998-99, and two years later in 2000-01 when the same youth were 16 and 17.

The measure in this study was not a diagnosis for clinical depression; rather the score provided a measure of the frequency of depressive symptoms, focusing on the occurrence and severity of the symptoms the previous week.

Youth were asked to respond to statements such as: I felt depressed; I felt I could not shake off the blues even with help from my family and friends; and I felt everything I did was an effort. Higher scores indicated a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms.

A higher proportion of young people reported stability in their relationship with their mother (40.8 per cent) over the two-year period, compared with those who reported it got worse (25.6 per cent). However there was little difference in the proportion of youth who reported that their relationship with their father worsened (33.3 per cent) or stayed the same (32.3 per cent).

While these results occurred regardless of household income, or whether the teens lived in single-or two-parent families, a few gender differences were found.

"In general boys were more likely to give their fathers a higher score on closeness, understanding and affection than girls but the actual link between those relationships and depressive symptoms were the same for boys and girls."

Females consistently reported more symptoms of depression than males.

At the ages of 14 and 15, girls reported higher levels of anxiety and were more likely than boys to report having suicidal thoughts (15.5 per cent compared with 6.9 per cent). At 16 and 17, young women had higher scores for symptoms of depression than did their male counterparts.

Meanwhile, another study released this week found that younger employees had the highest rates of depression in the workplace.

"Over the last three years we've seen a tremendous jump in anxiety rates among 20-29-year-old employees and depression rates among employees under 20 years-old are higher than any other group," Rod Phillips, president and CEO of WarrenShepell Research Group, said in a statement.

The company, which provides employee assistance programs, carried out the study looking at the links between age and the frequency of depression and anxiety symptoms.

The study found depression rates over a three-year period averaged 10.6 per cent for employees under 20 and 7.85 per cent for those aged 20-29. Depression symptoms dipped for those aged 30-49 but rose again (6.9 per cent) for those over 50 years of age.

These are kids that have grown up with parents going through separations or divorces, career changes, in addition to unrealistic images of what life should be like in the teens and 20s, and employers who aren't necessarily loyal to employees, notes Colleen Mac Dougall, a psychologist at Leadership for Life in Edmonton.

For instance, films depict movie stars like Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Jennifer Garner in 13 going on 30 wearing fabulous designer togs or landing fabulous first jobs and meeting wonderful guys.

"The heart of the issue is that these young people are caught in a kind of time warp between what they think they are supposed to be able to do and what they want in their lifestyle and that they are in a situation where they can't make it happen," said Mac Dougall.

People tend to be really gung-ho when they first get a job, but after some time the employee wants a life - time away from work - while the employer expects the same keen behaviour to continue, Mac Dougall said, adding that eventually the person resents coming in to work and the anxiety level goes through the roof.

Lucki is anxious to see the continuation of Statistics Canada's longitudinal survey and follow the teens into adulthood as "more and more we are realizing that depression is not a single episodic illness. For many it's recurring and chronic."

"The cost of depression? Huge," he said, adding that the World Health Organization predicts that in 15 years, depression will be the second leading cause of health impairment worldwide.


Thank you Dr. Baxter. I enjoy fact based information and studies on family relationships. I am a strong believer in family, although as my older set of kids have grown into adulthood rather 'unsuccessfully' at this point (but give them time). And my worries for my younger set of children are now paramount as I am more experienced in desireing to raise them properly now vs. raising the first set as an inexperienced young single mother.

I have always believed that a FATHER is really, in many cases, a more important parent, even though this is idealistic in our current world where father's are either weekend Dad's, not around at all, or the child has never known him.

This is a tragedy because I truly believe that the example of a male role model molds both boys and girls into the adults they become.

With divorce and single parent rates at all time highs society will suffer. Then there are the men that are around, but they themselves where never taught as children how to be good role models. My husband is THAT man. His father was married 7 times and as an adult my husband is STILL seeking the old man's love and approval. Meanwhile my spouse forgets that he in turn needs to take this experience and show his children love, acceptance, and qualitiy time.

But I am biased, I believe my husbands IQ is

Yes, the mother is the glue that holds the family together (as best as she can). I believe she is the one who sacrifices her own needs for that of others. BUT a responsible father who spends REAL time with his kids from the tiem they are small and can maintain that love and companionship through out the years is truly a good man. In addition a man who shows strong work ethic and respect for the people around him, honesty, and has high expectations of his children's behavior (along with lots of love) is ideal.

Many young men leave pregnant girlfriends in lower income areas, this is devastating to the generation of children he leaves behind. Then there are the men that are separated from their children after divorce. IF the mother really loves her children she should NEVER use them against him, talk bad about their father in front of him, and ever discourage the father's involvement in their lives. Despite personal dislike for the father, she should always encourage a strong relationship to continue. UNLESS there are GENUINE abuse issues at play (most biological fathers are less likely to abuse their natural children than a step or adoptive parents).

ALSO, this is important. I have noticed that fathers are more likely to push late teen children (especially son's) to become independent, get jobs, go to college or otherwise get on their own. Mothers are less pushy as they are more accepting of letting the child leave home at their own pace.

Thanks for the facts and topic. I love giving some deep thought to such issues. If the politically correct pendelum (sp) would swing back to family instead of broken homes and single mom's who have to have it all... our future generation and our kids will become the better for it.

Thanks a bunch,

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I have noticed that fathers are more likely to push late teen children (especially son's) to become independent, get jobs, go to college or otherwise get on their own. Mothers are less pushy as they are more accepting of letting the child leave home at their own pace.
I have seen many cases where the opposite was true.


Your the
I can see that you are probably right, but my situation with my children's father currently seems to be going the other way. I guess I had no room to

Actually, after four kids and now two grandkids at 37, I am anxious for the day all my kids can move out......

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