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How stepfathers at greater risk of depression than single parents: study

Kevin Shafer

It was only step-children who were at risk of negligence and depression but now a new study has revealed that even stepfathers, with multiple parenting roles, face the risk of depression compared to those with just a single parenting role.

The risk of depression increases for both men and women when the number of parenting roles they hold increases with the spouse’s own children and their own and some stepfathers experience the highest levels of stress, leading to depression, according to the latest findings.

In a growing phenomenon of a “yours, mine and ours” family, fathers hold three parenting roles: one each for the two families that blended, and a third when a child is born into the blended family.

The study conducted by Brigham Young University researchers showed that parents with three roles were 57 percent more likely to be depressed than those with just a single parenting role. Shafer in collaboration with Princeton’s Garrett Pace analyzed data from more than 6,000 parents in the US.

“If you say parenting and depression, the first thing people think of is post-partum moms,” said Kevin Shafer, a professor of social work at Brigham Young University in the US. “But both moms and dads experience stress and certain kinds of parenting roles can be very, very stressful,” Shafer said.

Focusing on the role of the father, he said the risk is even higher for them in such blended families when he has biological children who do not live with him. “There are norms that govern parenting, but there are no norms for being a step-parent,” Shafer noted.

One of the reasons for the stress is caused by the guilty feeling that step fathers undergo when they have to take care of his new children than his older children and it increases when a new baby arrives into the combined family, noted the researcher, whose findings are published in the journal Social Work.

“If you say parenting and depression, the first thing people think of is postpartum moms,” said Shafer.“But both moms and dads experience stress and certain kinds of parenting roles that can be very, very stressful.”

This study follows a 2013 paper by Shafer that was published in The New York Times titled, “What Makes a Successful Stepfather.”

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