Methods: This study used using existing data from a longitudinal, national probability study of children and families investigated for child maltreatment (National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing-II [NSCAW-II]). The NSCAW II baseline sample includes 5,873 children aged birth to 17.5 years old who had contact with the CWS from 2008-2009 and whose investigations were closed during this period. This study focused on the 3,636 youth who were living with their primary caregivers (e.g., not in foster care). 334 (9.2%) of these caregivers were male. Propensity score weighting and regression analyses were used.
Results: We identified significant demographic and mental health differences between male and female primary caregivers and their children. Fathers’ depression was a consistent predictor of child mental health problems at three-year follow-up. The role of key parenting factors in predicting later child mental health problems differed between fathers and mothers even after applying propensity score weights to mitigate demographic differences between the two groups.
Conclusions: These findings can shed light on how existing prevention and intervention programs, which have been generally designed to target mothers, could better reach and address the needs of fathers and their children. Given the high rates of medical and mental health problems of this population, these findings may have significant positive impacts on public health.