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Parent and Peer Attachments in Adolescence and Paternal Postpartum Mental Health: Findings From the ATP Generation 3 Study

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posted on 2021-07-02, 05:15 authored by JA Macdonald, CJ Greenwood, P Letcher, EA Spry, K Mansour, Jennifer McIntoshJennifer McIntosh, KC Thomson, C Deane, EJ Biden, B Edwards, D Hutchinson, J Cleary, JW Toumbourou, AV Sanson, CA Olsson
Background: When adolescent boys experience close, secure relationships with their parents and peers, the implications are potentially far reaching, including lower levels of mental health problems in adolescence and young adulthood. Here we use rare prospective intergenerational data to extend our understanding of the impact of adolescent attachments on subsequent postpartum mental health problems in early fatherhood. Methods: At age 17–18 years, we used an abbreviated Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment to assess trust, communication, and alienation reported by 270 male participants in their relationships with mothers, fathers, and peers. More than a decade later, we assessed the adult males, now fathers, at 12 months postpartum (N = 409 infant offspring) for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Logistic regression was used to examine the extent to which attachment dimensions predicted paternal postpartum mental health, adjusting for potential confounding, and with assessment for interactions between parent and peer attachments. Results: Trust in mothers and peers, and good communication with fathers during adolescence, were associated with 5 to 7 percentage point reductions in postpartum mental health symptoms in early fatherhood. Weak evidence of parent-peer interactions suggested secure attachments with either parent or peer may compensate for an insecure attachment with the other. Conclusions: Our results suggest that fostering trust and communication in relationships that adolescent boys have with parents and peers may have substantial effects on rates of paternal postpartum mental health problems. The protective benefits may be preventative in intergenerational cycles of risk for mental health problems.


Data collection for the ATP study was supported primarily through Australian grants from the Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital Research Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, the Australian Research Council (ARC), and the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Funding for this work was supported by grants from the ARC (DP130101459, DP160103160, and DP180102447) and the NHMRC (APP1082406). CO and DH were supported by NHMRC investigator grants (APP1175086 and APP1197488). JAM was supported by a Deakin University, Faculty of Health, mid-career research fellowship.


Publication Date



Frontiers in Psychology



Article Number

ARTN 672174







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