By John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Experts are predicting that rough economic times are likely to lead to a sizeable increase in male depression and irritability and a massive shift in whom is doing the parenting in the United States and how well they are doing it.
Will Men Become More Prone to Depression Than Women?
While women have traditionally been twice as likely to develop depression, that may change in the coming 10 years. Companies in the Western world are undergoing a profound reorganization that is likely to have a ripple effect throughout society. Blue-collar, physically-demanding jobs, which have traditionally been held predominantly by men, are being outsourced to nations with cheaper sources of labor or are being replaced by technology.
75% of Jobs Lost Since 2007 Were Held By Men
Since the start of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 out of 100 jobs lost in the U.S. were filled by men. The likelihood that traditional male occupations will return is low. “Western men, particularly those with low education, will face a difficult road in the 21st century,” wrote Dr. Boadie Dunlop, director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at Emory University School of Medicine, in his recent commentary in the March 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
While it’s difficult to directly connect layoffs with depression, it is known that unexpected job loss is linked to a variety of mental issues such as depression, irritability, lower self-esteem, and anxiety.
More Women Becoming Primary Breadwinners
In their commentary, Dr. Dunlop and co-author, Tanja Mletzko, M.A., highlight the trend in which more women are becoming the main source of income for the family. The percentage of wives whom earn more than their spouses has risen from 4% in 1970 to 22% in 2007.
The Downward Spiral
In general, men place a higher level of importance on being the financial provider and the defender of the family as compared to women. For many men, difficulty fulfilling the role of provider is likely to spark feelings of irritability and a depressed mood. In turn, this increase in negative emotion is likely to fuel more frequent and more intense arguments within the marriage. This powder keg of negative affect and discord may lead to increased substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life.
Depressed Men Spank More, Read Less to Children
Adding to this gloomy picture are recent findings from the University of Michigan Health System this month which state that depressed fathers are four times as likely to spank and less likely to read to their children. R. Neal Davis reports that depressed fathers stand a good chance of negatively influencing the development of their child. These findings are reported in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
The U. of M. study followed 1,746 dads of 1-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The fathers were asked how frequently they read to, sang to and played with their child(ren). The dads were also asked how frequently, if at all, they spanked their children in the past 30 days. All dads were also checked for depressive symptoms.
Seven percent of the 1,746 fathers had significant depression. Of the depressed dads, nearly 20% reported reading less frequently to their children as compared to those without depression (41% vs. 58% read at least three times per week).
Depressed Dads Three Times As Likely to Spank
Perhaps more startling, over 40% of the depressed dads reported spanking their child in the past 30 days. This percentage was more than three times higher compared to fathers who weren’t depressed. It’s unknown to what extent spanking was under-reported by either group.
Men Will Need Support to Parent Effectively
In any case, men who are transitioning to being more involved with parenting and running the home will need training and support in the areas of emotional management, parenting, and stress management.
Emotional management skills are critical to help men recognize and manage strong negative emotions such as sadness, anger and anxiety. It’s also essential that we, as men, revisit what it means to be a ‘real man.’ We must redefine masculinity and think outside the box when it comes to how we think of ourselves and our roles in society. While there are bound to be some bumps in the road, in the long term, more active fathers is a positive development. Remember, we’re all rookies as parents when we first step into the role of father or mother.
About the Author
John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice helping clients learn anger management, stress management and the latest ways to deal with destructive negative emotions. He also helps people discover happier, more meaningful lives via positive psychology. His offices are in Danville, California 94526. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years. John is Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches clients to happiness and success using the latest in positive psychology. He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area. His areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to anger management, to coaching men. He wrote the award-winning, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,” which is available for FREE right now at www.GuideToSelf.com. His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web. His new video blog teaches a unique positive psychology approach to anger management (http://www.WebAngerManagement.com)