Paternal depression and anxiety are important risk factors for a problematic parent–child relationship and subsequent child development. We explored the association between paternal history of depression and anxiety disorder and infant–father attachment security, taking into account the possible mediating roles of sensitivity and perceived family stress. In a sample of 94 infant–father dyads, a structured diagnostic interview and a questionnaire on family stress were administered during pregnancy. Paternal sensitivity was observed using the Ainsworth coding scales, and infant–father attachment was observed in the strange situation procedure during a lab visit at 14 months. Linear regression models were used to examine the association of father's lifetime depression or anxiety with the continuous scales for infant–father attachment security and disorganization. Father's history of depression or anxiety disorder was not significantly related to infant–father attachment security in the total sample. Interestingly, daughters of fathers with a history of depression or anxiety had higher scores on attachment security than daughters of fathers without this diagnosis. Perceived family stress and paternal sensitivity were not significant mediators. We discuss these unexpected findings, suggesting alternative mechanisms for how paternal vulnerability to depression or anxiety may be associated with the infant–father attachment relationship. Highlights: We examine the association between paternal history of depression and anxiety disorder and infant-father attachment security. In 94 infant-father dyads, a structured diagnostic interview was administered and infant-father attachment was observed in the Strange Situation Procedure. Daughters of fathers with a psychiatric history had higher scores on attachment security. Mechanisms of paternal vulnerability are discussed.
- family stress
- infant-father attachment