Stay-at-Home Fathers, Depression, and Help-Seeking: A Consensual Qualitative Research Study

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Evidence suggests that masculine socialization may serve both to restrict men’s potential in ways that lead to psychological distress, while also restricting the ways in which they respond to such distress. Although we are beginning to understand masculine and paternal depression, little is known about how stay-at-home fathers (SAHFs) experience depression, nor their experiences and beliefs regarding help-seeking and psychotherapy. To that end, this qualitative study focused on how SAHFs experience depression and help-seeking via in-depth interviews with 12 participants from across the United States. Results indicated that SAHFs who have experienced depression during their tenure as SAHFs focused on relational distress, isolation, loss of independence, and social stigma as contributing to their depression. They appeared to retain a high value on providing for their families, both in the decision to take on the role of SAHF and in deciding to ultimately seek help for depression. The idea of seeking help as a means to protect and provide for their families appeared congruent with their descriptions of masculinity, which recast the SAHF role as being definitionally masculine. Finally, this growing minority of men appeared to be building social networks both on- and offline to support their sense of identity and as a means for coping with the unique stressors they face. These results have implications for therapists, medical practitioners, public health officials, and family members of SAHFs.

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