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Fathers’ behaviour during partners’ pregnancies impacts offspring mental health

11 March 2021

In a new preprint, Dr Kayleigh Easey and Dr Gemma Sharp summarise the impact on offspring mental health of fathers’ tobacco, alcohol and caffeine use – as well as exercise – during their partners’ pregnancies.

The impact that paternal health behaviours around pregnancy can have on offspring health is understudied, despite evidence of association shown through direct and indirect pathways.

Sixty percent of the studies included in the systematic review and meta-analysis showed associations between paternal behaviours and offspring mental health. Most notable was the link between paternal smoking and ADHD in offspring.

Only a few of the studies included mutually adjusted models with maternal behaviours to reduce bias. Of those that did, paternal smoking during pregnancy was still associated with higher offspring ADHD.

The researchers assert that a lack of evidence on the causal impact of paternal prenatal behaviours means that that we might be missing out on potential pathways to harm. More research here could influence health warnings and advice for dads-to-be, both during pregnancy and pre-conception.

The preprint is here:

There is more about the researchers’ work on prenatal influences on childhood health (the EPoCH project) here:

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