Dr. R. Neal Davis, who conducted the research while at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues performed an analysis by using interview data from 1,746 fathers of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study.
The researchers identified positive parenting behaviors as fathers playing games, singing songs and reading stories to their children more than three days in a typical week. Negative parenting behavior included fathers' reports of spanking their 1-year-old children in the previous month.
Using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form, the researchers detected that 7 percent of the fathers were depressed, Davis said.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that 41 percent of the fathers who were depressed said they had spanked their 1-year-old in the previous month, compared to 13 percent of the fathers who were not depressed.
Since 77 percent of depressed fathers reported talking to their children's doctor in the previous year, the researchers recommend pediatric providers should consider screening fathers for depression, discussing specific parenting behaviors such as reading to children and appropriate discipline and referring them for treatment if appropriate.