Friday, June 14, 2024

Paternal Anxiety Increases Offspring Risk for Behavioral, Emotional Problems

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The offspring of fathers with anxiety are at increased risk for negative behavioral and emotional outcomes, according to findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Although parental anxiety has been associated with increased behavioral issues among children, the majority of existing data is from studies that primarily evaluate mothers. In contrast, relatively little is known about the effect of paternal anxiety and offspring outcomes. To address this knowledge gap, investigators conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of paternal anxiety in the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology among offspring.

The investigators searched publication databases from inception to February 2022 to identify quantitative studies that measured paternal anxiety and offspring behavioral and/or emotional outcomes. The primary outcome of interest was offspring psychopathology. The investigators also evaluated several potential moderators, including offspring age at time of assessment, offspring sex, informant of offspring outcomes (ie, self-report, parent, clinician), the continent where research was conducted, and father-offspring biological relatedness (ie, birth father, adoptive father, majority birth father).

Overall, 98 studies were included in the meta-analysis, derived from 83 independent samples, for a pooled sample size of 54,998 participants. The investigators noted that their research assumptions were largely heteronormative, euro-centric, and based on a nuclear family.

Overall, our findings indicate that paternal anxiety is positively associated with a generalised vulnerability to psychopathology, in line with principles of multifinality and pleiotropy.

The investigators observed small but significant associations between paternal anxiety and offspring anxiety (r, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.11-0.16; I2=87.46%; P <.0001 offspring="" depression="">r, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.03-0.23; I2=88.55%; P =.01). Paternal anxiety was also associated with offspring behavioral outcomes (r, 0.19; 95% CI, 0.13-0.24; I2=90.37%; P <.0001 offspring="" emotional="" outcomes="">r, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.12-0.18; I2=89.90%; P <.0001 and="" combined="" offspring="" href="" wp_automatic_readability="12.889622641509">behavioral and emotional problems (r, 0.16; 95% CI, 0.13-0.19; I2=89.92%; P <.0001 wp_automatic_readability="26">

The investigators noted that some of the associations between paternal anxiety and offspring psychopathology were partly moderated by methodological variables (ie, informant type, method of assessing outcomes, the country where the study was conducted, year of publication) and offspring sex.

“Overall, our findings indicate that paternal anxiety is positively associated with a generalised vulnerability to psychopathology, in line with principles of multifinality and pleiotropy,” the investigators concluded.

The generalizability of these findings may be limited, as study samples comprised mostly White European American individuals. Additionally, the included studies had substantial heterogeneity and the investigators were unable to evaluate potential confounding by maternal mental health.

Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.

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