Fathers' mental Ill-health and child maltreatment: A systematic review of the literature

Ian Holroyd, Paul Bywaters, Robbie Duschinsky, Taurean Drayak, John Taylor, Barry Coughlan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Parental mental ill-health is often described as a risk factor for child maltreatment. Yet the literature commonly foregrounds maternal mental ill-health. To obtain a more complete picture, it is crucial to also understand the associations between fathers’ mental health and child maltreatment.

To provide a narrative synthesis of evidence about the relationship between fathers’ mental health and child maltreatment.

Four electronic databases were searched, identifying 5479 citations. 151 studies were brought to full-text review. 37 were included in the study.

Studies revealed mixed evidence for associations between forms of paternal mental ill health and child maltreatment, with stronger evidence for paternal depression and weak or no evidence for PTSD and anxiety. Many confounding factors were identified across the papers.

The small number and limited range of good quality studies indicate the need to correct the relative invisibility of fathers within research about mental health and child maltreatment. At present the available evidence is not sufficient to draw firm conclusions about the association between fathers’ mental health and child maltreatment or appropriate policy and practice responses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107317
Number of pages13
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

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