Fathers without jobs

Carolyn Moynihan
1 Mar 2012
Reproduced with Permission

As men sometimes complain, they have tended to be overlooked in the great exodus of women from the home into the workforce and other changes affecting women and motherhood during the past 50-60 years. However, higher rates of unemployment among men in a changing economy has recently drawn some attention back to the ordinary male of the species. There is a lot of talk about the un-marriageability of men without secure jobs.

One of the things that is clear from the research that has been done is that working-class men do not readily accept the egalitarian model of domestic life and suffer when they lose the provider role. A new study that explored depression among fathers in the US tends to confirm this. The study shows that unemployment is by far the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms in fathers, stronger even than living with a mother who is depressed.

Using previously widely used measures of fathers', mothers' and children's physical and mental health, as well as numerous other family and child characteristics, such as maternal and paternal age, race, marital status, and educational attainment, as well as child age, these data demonstrate the following factors being independently associated with increased rates of fathers' depressive symptoms: living in poverty (1.5 times as common as not living in poverty); living with a child with special health care needs (1.4 times as common); living with a mother with depressive symptoms (5.75 times as common); poor paternal physical health (3.31 times as common) and paternal unemployment (6.50 times as common).

The researchers call this "a brand new, and unique finding with profound implications for the health and development of children in this time of extremely high rates of unemployment." They add that,

Fathers play profoundly important roles in the lives of children and families, and are all too often forgotten in our efforts to help children. These new findings, we hope, will be useful to much needed efforts to develop strategies to identify and treat the very large number of fathers with depression."

Prevention would be a great thing too. Is it too politically incorrect to ask for a special effort to retrain men who have lost their jobs, with a view to preserving or improving their mental health and strengthening families?