This chapter reviews the literature on depressive symptoms, problem behaviors and their
psychosocial correlates in youth, in order to provide a scholarly backdrop to the present study: in
this study YUUFs are viewed as a subset of youth, specifically male, urban youth of color. The
chapter is organized into a review of developmental-ecological theory, the concept of psychosocial
domains, and how these perspectives fit with the current study. Literature on depressive symptoms
and problem behaviors in youth in general are reviewed with reference to how it pertains to young
fathers. The next section examines the literature on the psychosocial domains of
sociodemographics, coping, family factors, peers and non-parental adults, living environment, and
how they relate to depressive symptoms and problem behaviors in youth. The final domain
inspected is fathering factors where literature relating to psychological and behavioral functioning
The population of young fathers is complex and in many aspects unstudied. Because use of
multiple perspectives is helpful for accurately understanding issues pertaining to the prevalence
and severity of depressive symptoms and behavior problems, a developmental-ecological
framework was chosen as the underpinning for this research. The theory provides an opportunity to
examine populations within and across domains.
Developmental-ecological theoretical framework
Developmental-ecological theory highlights the transactional nature of biological,
psychological, social, and cultural systems. The theory states that the process of human
development occurs in a context and that this context in turn, affects and is affected by human
development, creating a constant feedback loop. (See Garbarino, 1990; Gilgun, 1996; Shinn &
Toohey, 2003). This theory is helpful for understanding problem behaviors and depressive
symptoms in YUUFs because it takes into account the developmental stage of adolescence and
movement towards young adulthood, the parenting role, the stresses and strengths of the
environment, and cultural and social influences. Adolescence is a period of tremendous cognitive,
emotional, social, and physical growth and development. The development of self-regulation skills
such as emotional regulation, effortful control, organization and planning are essential (Buckner,
Mezzacappa, & Beardslee, 2003): healthy resolution of adolescent challenges affects the quality of
life an individual will lead as an adult. Early fatherhood can affect the natural developmental
trajectory of a youth, creating stress, depression and increased or different problem behaviors
which in turn can compromise parenting ability.
The emerging concept of “domains” in adolescent development
Much of the current research on psychological health and psychosocial outcomes of youth
uses developmental-ecological theory and views symptoms and behaviors as occurring within
multiple contexts and across developmental stages. (Beam, et al., 2002; Dubois, Feiner, Brand, &
George, 1999; Wachs, 2000). In order to be able to study these multiple influences and contexts,
researchers have separated youths’ contextual environment into domains and examined the relative
contribution of each domain. Domains studied, as they relate to depressive symptoms and problem
behaviors, often include peers, family, school, and coping (Beam, et al, 2002; Chang, 2001;
Dubois, Feiner, Brand, Phillips, & Lease, 1996; Gonzales, Tein, Sandler, & Friedman, 2001). The
outcomes for youth in each domain are differentially correlated with demographics such as gender,
ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and living environment (urban/rural/suburban).
Consequently findings are complex and varied and reflect the multidimensional nature of
contextual and sociodemographic influences on depressive symptoms and problem behaviors.
Contextual theory has been used to explain aspects of fathering (Doherty, et al., 1996; Marsiglio,
1995), thus using a similar framework to examine depressive symptoms and problem behaviors in
YUUFs is consistent with previous theoretical literature on fathering.
Developmental-ecological theory has been used not only to look at risk factors but also to
examine protective factors. Protective factors are thought to diminish the likelihood of negative
outcomes in high risk situations, but not to affect developmental outcomes in situations of low risk
(Compas, et al., 1995). Although protective factors are not the primary focus of this study, they are
relevant in terms of depressive symptoms and behavior problems. Therefore, coping capacity, one
psychological characteristic that can be protective, was measured; coping skills can affect the
ability to weather negative experiences and take advantage of opportunities in the face of
The categories highlighted below include sociodemographics (gender, ethnicity,
socioeconomic status, and age), and the domains of coping, family factors, non-familial social
influences (peers and adults), and living environment. These categories and domains have been
found to be correlated with depressive symptoms and problem behaviors (Beam, et al, 2002;
Chang, 2001; Dubois, et al., 1999; Gonzales, et al., 2001, Lewis & Frydenberg, 2002). The domain
of fathering factors is the last to be discussed. Reviewing the literature will emphasize the
multidimensional nature of contextual and sociodemographic influences on depressive symptoms
and problem behaviors in YUUFs.
Depressive symptoms and problem behaviors
Adolescent depression in the United States
Depression is documented to be a serious and pervasive problem for youth in the U.S.
Birmaher, et al. (1996) reported that prevalence rates of depression in adolescents ranged between
0.4% and 8.3%. The researchers further noted that the lifetime prevalence of Major Depressive
Disorder (MDD) in teens was approximated to be between 15% and 20%. Longitudinal studies
have noted that there are serious negative psychosocial outcomes associated with adolescent
depression, such as poor academic achievement, substance abuse, and suicide (Fergusson &
Woodward, 2002), and there is a greater likelihood that depression will continue into adulthood
(Birmaher, et al.; Lewinsohn, Rohde, Klein, & Seeley, 1999; Lewinsohn, Rohde, Seeley, Klein, &
Gotlib, 2000). Additional longitudinal studies have demonstrated that certain early experiences
impact later depressive symptoms in youth (Frost, Reinherz, Pakiz-Camras, Giaconia, &
Adolescent problem behavior in the United States
The definition of problem behavior in adolescents has included school problems, early
substance abuse, delinquency, and early sexual behavior (Duckworth, Hale, Clair, & Adams, 2000;
Fagan & Pabon, 1990; Kirby & Coyle, 1997; Perez McCluskey, et al., 2002). Researchers have
demonstrated that these behaviors often occur as a cluster. Longitudinal studies have shown that
the behaviors appear to be linked with earlier and current characteristics such as low peer
acceptance, stressful interpersonal events, early childhood aggression, poor academic achievement,
low parental education, and living in a single parent family (Perez McCluskey, et al.). Level of
problem behaviors varies by gender, ethnicity, neighborhood, etc. with “at-risk” youth engaging in
more of these behaviors than their peers (C. Smith, et al., 1995; Werner & R. Smith, 1982).
Co-occurrence of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors
The co-occurrence of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors in youth is common
(Beam, et al., 2002; Marmorstein, 2001; Reinherz, et al., 1993; Seigel, Aneshenel, Taub, Cantwell,
& Driscolls, 1998). Co-occurrence of symptoms and behaviors has been shown to vary with
demographic and psychiatric characteristics, representing a greater vulnerability for certain
population groups. For example in a longitudinal, community sample, adolescents with the
diagnosis of MDD had higher levels of problem behaviors than did normal controls (Lewinson, et
al., 1999). Samaan (2000) notes that poverty is associated with increased levels of both depression
and problem behaviors for children. However, when socioeconomic status is controlled Whites
have a higher prevalence of depression and problem behaviors than do African Americans, Native
Americans, or Latinos. Studies examining the equal co-occurrence of problem behavior and
depressive symptoms in males and females show varied results. One study reported that a positive
association between depressive symptoms and problem behaviors existed only for girls (Herrera,
2002), whereas another study found no difference between males and females (Dubois, et al.,
1999). (This topic will be discussed further below).
It is illuminating, both practically and theoretically, to see how depressive symptoms and
problem behaviors vary in YUUFs. Male youth involved in pregnancies are reported to engage in
riskier activities than their noninvolved counterparts (Resnick, Chambliss, & Blum, 1993;
Spingarn & DuRant, 1996) and researchers and practitioners suggest that YUUFs suffer from
depressive symptoms (Achatz & MacAllum, 1994; Elster & Panzarine, 1980; Kiselica, et al.,
1994). Unfortunately having both depressive symptoms and behavior problems may magnify risk
for individuals. One study demonstrated that youth who report both depressive symptoms and
problem behaviors engage in riskier behaviors than youth who have just one of these disorders
(Marmorstein, 2001). Studying co-occurrence is essential as some literature has suggested that
problem behaviors are an external presentation of depression in males (Pollack, 1998; Real, 1997).
Ethnic differences in depressive symptoms and problem behaviors
Ethnicity is an important social and cultural factor that, when employing a developmental-
ecological framework, appears to have multiple influences on the presence of depressive
symptoms and problem behaviors. For example, ethnicity has been found to be related to poverty
level, living environment, and family structure: it is important to note that as one demographic is
controlled, the influence of ethnicity on depressive symptoms and problem behaviors may change.
In one study that looked at how ethnicity and poverty affected depressive symptoms, Whites who
lived below the poverty line reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than Whites who were
not poor. This finding was not true for African Americans, Latinos, or Asians, whose depressive
symptoms remained stable regardless of income (Seigel, et al. 1998). This study also showed that
Latinos reported more depressive symptoms than other ethnicities even when controlling for
income. Similarly, studies regarding how certain family variables affect problem behaviors are
influenced by the family’s ethnicity. For example, C. Smith and Krohn (1995) found that the
family variable of “father absence” affected Latino males’ behavior more negatively than it did
Caucasians or African Americans. The family variables of parental attachment and control reduced
delinquency in Caucasians and African Americans, but not in Latinos. Smith and Krohn also found
that economic hardship negatively affected family life for all ethnicities and consequently
increased delinquency. It becomes clear through the research, and using the framework of
developmental-ecological theory, that one of the factors that makes studying the effects of
ethnicity on depressive symptoms and problem behaviors confusing is that many non-white
populations often reside in low SES, geographically isolated areas; populations living in
disadvantaged neighborhoods experience more crime, adolescent delinquency, social and physical
problems, school dropout, and child abuse and neglect (Sampson, et al., 2002). Because of these
confounding factors regarding the relationship of ethnicity with depressive symptoms and problem
behaviors, it becomes important to review the literature on neighborhood effects. Please see review
under heading “Domain of community/ living environment.”
Gender differences in depressive symptoms and problem behaviors
Current research highlights differences of depressive symptomology in males and females.
Females are more likely than males to report depressive symptomology (Beam et al., 2002;
Reinherz, et al., 1993). In one longitudinal study of a non-clinical sample, 9.4% of the participants
were diagnosed with major depression at 18; girls were three times more likely than boys to fall
into this group (Reinherz, et al.). One study examined gender differences in a large sample of
college students and found no difference between levels of depressive symptoms, but did find
differences in patterns of symptom depression, particularly for the students with high levels of
depression (Hammen & Padesky, 1977). A cross sectional study used a large non-clinical sample
and inspected the relationship between depressive symptoms and gender by age and pubertal
development. There were no differences between depressive symptoms in early adolescent girls
and boys. However, middle and older adolescent girls reported significantly more depressive
symptoms than their male counterparts (Seigel, et al, 1998), suggesting that a gender effect may be
mediated by developmental stage.
Studies show that more boys than girls are diagnosed with problem behavior (Herrera,
2002). Other studies found that although gender was initially associated with problem behavior,
whether or not the peer group approved of this behavior ultimately accounted for this gender effect
(Beam et al., 2002). This is important for studying young urban males, as it is likely that an urban
environment, depressed economics, and quality of opportunities available can negatively shape
peer activities and sanctions.
The equal co-occurrence of problem behavior and depressive symptoms in males and
females is still being investigated. One study reported that a positive association between
depressive symptoms and problem behaviors existed only for girls (Herrera, 2002). A longitudinal
study, that employed the developmental-ecological concept of looking at youth across and within
domains, examined correlates of youth who had both conduct disorder and depressive symptoms.
This study found no difference between males and females; some of the correlates studied were in
the domains of family, functioning, and personality (Dubois, et al., 1999). A cross sectional study
identified a different impact of violence for males and females. African American boys residing in
the inner-city who were victims were more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior while their female
peers who were exposed to violence were more likely to experience symptoms of Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Mcgee, Davis, Brisbane, Collins, Nuriddin, Irving, Mutakabbir, &
Martin, 2001). It is important to note that boys in this study experienced victimization more often
than girls, whereas girls were more likely to witness violence.
Examining why some individuals do better despite similar adverse circumstances is
essential in studying depressive symptoms and problem behaviors. Coping is an important
psychological concept that has been shown to be closely linked with depressive symptoms and
problem behaviors (Gonzales, et al., 2001; Okech & Harrington, 2002; Werner, 1992).
Psychological health: coping ability
Relationship between depressive symptoms, problem behaviors and coping:
Lewis and Frydenberg (2002) define coping as “behaviors and actions which arise in
response to demands placed upon an individual” (p. 419). Studies have shown that varied
coping styles and flexibility of use are related to better psychological, behavioral, and health
outcomes in youth (Gonzales, et al., 2001; Lewis & Frydenberg; Steiner, Erickson,
Hernandez, & Pavelski, 2002). Specifically, ability to cope with adversity diminishes
depressive symptoms and problem behaviors (Gonzales, et al.; Okech & Harrington, 2002).
Coping is particularly important during key developmental and life transitions that may
induce more stress (e.g. adolescence and new parenthood). Consequently, the ability to cope
has significant implications for youth such as young fathers, who are struggling not only with
adolescent and parenting issues, but also with high levels of environmental and social stress.
Many researchers have used an “approach/avoidance” model to study coping (Gonzales, et
al., 2001; Scott & House, 2005). An approach coping strategy is defined as paying direct attention
to the problem; an avoidance approach is defined as directing one’s attention away from the
problem. Researchers have acknowledged that the helpfulness of a coping style depends on the
situation and that the choice of strategy is influenced by one’s appraisal of the situation. Studies
have identified a correlation between an approach strategy and fewer depressive symptoms and
behavior problems (Holahan & Moos, 1991; Scott & House, 2005). The results of a large, cross
sectional study by Steiner et al. (2002) demonstrated comparable findings. However, the research
also showed that while avoidance style was related to more health problems and risk behaviors, its
effect was ameliorated by the concurrent presence of approach style within the individual. This
study may have limited generalizability as the population used was mainly white and upper middle
Other studies, using more diverse samples, have found different relationships
between coping styles and depressive symptoms and behavior problems (Gonzales, et al
2001; Lewis & Frydenberg, 2002). Gonzales, et al. examined the relationships between
styles of coping, mental health, behavior problems, sociodemographics, and living
environments within and across domains. The researchers observed the relationship between
depressive symptoms, conduct problems, academic achievement, and coping styles in a
multiethnic sample of 12-15 year olds. The results showed no significant differences across
ethnicities. However, there were significant differences between genders. For instance, active
coping in the presence of a high level of peer and community stress increased depressive
symptoms in males. Conduct problems were mediated by level of family stress and avoidant
coping style; of note, a high level of family stress and avoidant coping style were linked with
fewer conduct problems. However, a low level of family stress and avoidant coping style
meant more conduct problems. This study suggests that the relationship between conduct
problems, depressive symptoms and coping style is mediated by gender and flexibility in the
use of coping styles. Relevant to this research with young fathers is Gonzales, et al.’s finding
that avoidant coping was significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms and
behavior problems in the presence of certain kinds and amounts of stress; the aforementioned
stress is similar to types and levels of stress faced by young fathers. For example, many
young fathers live in poverty and poverty is known to increase family stress.
Solitary versus connection related coping strategies
Some literature describes how men resist sharing difficult feelings; society sees
expressing emotion as a feminine not a masculine characteristic (Pollack, 1998; Real, 1997).
Men who have difficult feelings and do not share them can (1) become or remain depressed
and (2) express their pain through externalizing behaviors (Real). The author of this present
study, both a researcher and a clinician, has observed that young, urban fathers tend to use
more solitary strategies which may not be helpful for their growth and development and may
not allow them to build social capital.
Family: How family factors influence risk of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors
The relationship between depressive symptoms and problem behaviors and family
factors in youth is well documented (Beam, et al., 2002; Marmorstein, 2001; Reinherz, et al.,
1993; Rivera, Guarniccia, Mulvaney-Day, Lin, Torres, & Allegria, 2008; Seigel et al., 1998).
Some specific factors studied include family conflict/cohesion, parental warmth, parental
characteristics (e.g. history of depression/substance abuse in parents and parental education),
and family loss issues (e.g. loss of parent, father absence, and changes in family structure).
Using a developmental-ecological framework, outcomes can be understood to be mediated
by influences from other contexts and sociodemographic characteristics.
Family factors and depressive symptoms
Using a longitudinal design and a community sample, Reinherz, et al., (1993) examined the
relationship between family conflict and the development of major depressive disorder (MDD) by
18 years old. The sample was mostly White and lower or working class. The findings showed that
the influence of family conflict on MDD in 18 year olds was mediated by gender. In this study
significantly more males who had MDD at 18 years old reported an intensification of family
arguments and violence between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. Parental warmth, another key
family characteristic, has been correlated with reduced depressive symptoms. In their study on
depressive symptoms and problem behaviors, Beam, et al., (2002) reported this association was not
significantly mediated by the influences from other contexts.
Some parental characteristics appear to influence depressive symptoms in youth.
Depressive symptoms reported to exist in their parents by youth appeared to increase depressive
symptoms in girls but not boys (Beam, et al., 2002). Parental educational level has been strongly
associated with depressive symptoms in youth (Seigel, et al., 1998). Studying a multiethnic
sample, Seigel, et al. reported that youth whose parents had less than high school education were
significantly more likely to have higher levels of depressive symptoms. Family losses and changes
influenced depressive symptoms as well. Reinherz et al. (1993) reported that developing MDD at
18 years old was significantly related to loss of a parent before the age of 15 for females but not
males. However, higher depressive symptoms in males were related to the remarriage of a parent.
Family factors and problem behaviors
Family factors also affected problem behaviors. Parents’ disapproval of the youths’
problem behaviors reduced misconduct by the youth, but this effect was mediated by peer
and nonfamilial adult social support, that is if the peer group sanctioned misconduct, youth
were more likely misbehave (Beam, et al., 2002). This result points to the importance of
using developmental-ecological theory and looking at effects both within domains as well as
across domains. C. Smith and Krohn (1995) conducted a study particularly relevant to this
YUUF study because their sample is similar to the profile of young urban fathers. These
authors designed a longitudinal study of high risk, urban males of color. Smith and Krohn’s
study, using the concept of looking across and within domains, examined how family
processes influenced delinquent behavior among these youth. Specifically they looked at the
relative contribution of family involvement, attachment, and control to delinquency in the
youths. The results showed a large indirect effect of poverty on delinquent behavior:
economic hardship had a significant impact on family processes and ultimately indirectly
created less attachment and less parental supervision. Poverty was more significant than
being raised in a single parent home in relation to delinquent behavior. A study by Duncan,
Strycker, Duncan, & Hayrettin (2002) partially supported this finding: They found that
neighborhood desirability influenced family conflict and individual levels of family deviance
and that family conflict was related to individual levels of deviance.
These studies help construct a profile of male youth who suffer from depressive symptoms
and problem behaviors. Young urban fathers have similar demographic profiles to the
aforementioned youth; many are poor, of color, and come from single parent families for example.
It is logical to use these studies to construct a framework within which to examine young fathers.
Longitudinal designs offer important information about gender, ethnic, sociodemographic and
psychological specific antecedents to a diagnosis of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors.
Limitations to some of the studies are that samples are mainly White, childless and consequently
may not be generalizable to parenting populations of color.
Peers and nonfamilial adults: how they influence risk of depressive symptoms and problem
Peers and significant nonfamilial adults (Very Important Persons or VIPs) influence
depressive symptoms and problem behaviors. Beam, et al., (2002) report that perceiving peers and
adults as sanctioning misconduct increased problem behavior, especially for male youth.
Conversely, having at least one positive VIP decreased problem behavior even if the peer group
was sanctioning it (Beam, et al.). Being female and perceiving peers as having depressive
symptoms increased the likelihood of these same symptoms.
Another factor that appears to be related to depressive symptoms is having relationship
difficulties with significant others. Williamson, Birmaher, Frank, Anderson, Matty, and Kupfer
(1998) describe this stressor as a precursor to a depressive event. This could be particularly
relevant for young fathers, as the relationship with the child’s mother is one of life-long co-
parenting, not just partnering. In addition, the quality of this relationship appears to be related to
the father’s access to his child which may then affect the father’s depressive symptoms (Sherry, et
Community /living environment: How does an urban environment influence depressive symptoms
and problem behaviors?
Studies propose that the pervasive and persistent conditions that exist in inner-cities, such
as exposure to violence, poverty, and crime, increase risk of depressive symptoms and problem
behaviors (Duckworth, et al., 2000; McGee, et al., 2001; Sampson, et al., 2002; Seigel, et al., 1998;
P. Smith, et al., 2001). There is evidence that black adolescent males living in urban areas engage
in risky behaviors and experience depressive symptoms (although this is much less documented).
McGee et al. studied a sample of 306 African American adolescents who resided in the inner-city
and found that 97% reported having been exposed to violence. The males in this group reported
higher rates of delinquent behavior and poorer academic achievement than their counterparts.
Another study reported that out of 247 black male youth, utilizing an inner-city health clinic, the
average age of first intercourse was 12 years old. Nineteen percent had been involved in a
pregnancy, and 23 % had a past history of a sexually transmitted disease (Wilson, Kastinakis,
D’Angelo, & Getson, 1994). P. Smith, et al. examined mental health problems and symptoms in a
non-clinical sample of poor, multiethnic, inner-city male youth. Of this sample 61% did not
graduate high school and 28% were fathers or expecting. These youth reported high levels of
relationship and money problems and intense feelings of anger, sadness and aggression. The
samples these studies used are close in profile to young fathers or actually are young fathers, and
offer preliminary demographic and emotional baselines for this population.
Fathering factors: stressors unique to young fatherhood in the U.S
Young fathers fall into several aforementioned categories that increase their risk for
depressive symptoms and problem behaviors. They are in the midst of a transition from
adolescence to adulthood and are also thrust into an adult role prematurely by their early parenting
status. Many young fathers are poor, uneducated, and non-white (Landry and Forrest, 1995;
McLanahan, et al., 2003; Sorensen, 1999), a profile that is linked to negative psychosocial
outcomes. Early fatherhood has been associated with a number of negative antecedents and
consequences for young men. The studies show that these youth experience more social,
educational, and economic difficulties both before a pregnancy and after a birth than their childless
counterparts (Lindberg, et al., 1997; Marsiglio, 1995; Rivara, et al., 1986; Spingarn & DuRant,
1996; Stouthamer-Loeber & Wei, 1998).
Particular factors and situations that young, unwed fathers face may be related to high
levels of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors in this population. These situations include
the lack of paternal rights when a child is born out-of-wedlock; being unemployed and unable to
contribute financially (National Center for Children in Poverty, 1997); not understanding the
welfare and child support system, owing money, or having wages seized by this system (Sherry, et
al., 2001; Sorenson, 1999), not having physical access to the child, and having a conflictual
relationship with the mother of the child.
Some studies found that young fathers have difficulty coping with stressful situations and
tolerating difficult feelings (Achatz & MacAllum, 1994; Elster & Panzarine, 1980). For example,
Achatz and MacAllum (1994) reported on ethnographic interviews with 47 young, low-income,
unwed fathers. Eighty-nine percent of the sample was Black. Data were gathered on various
components of their lives but not specifically on depressive symptoms. “Many” participants
described chronic depressive symptoms (p.23). When this sample was asked about their reactions
to the pregnancy, they described feeling depressed, guilty, uncertain, inadequate, and that they
were isolating themselves from others. The fathers described trying to come to terms with this life
change by trying to find work and becoming involved in the pregnancy. However, they frequently
described obstacles to being able to accomplish these goals. This ethnographic study makes a good
start examining the mental health of young fathers. However, the focus of the study was not on
mental health so limited data were gathered. In addition, standardized measures were not used thus
generalizability is limited and comparability were not established.
Elster & Panzarine (1980) attempted to look at the effects of impending paternity of
16 teenaged expectant fathers. Ten of the fathers were Black, five were White, and one was
defined as “Spanish”. The researchers used both qualitative and quantitative methods to
examine the teens’ emotional needs. The study correlated ability to cope with the Offer Self-
Image Questionnaire scores. Poor coping was defined as “lack of acceptance of the
responsibilities associated with becoming a father, a lack of resolution of negative feelings
toward the pregnancy, and a deterioration of function in school, work, or interpersonal
relationships” (p. 117). There was a significant positive correlation between coping with the
pregnancy and Offer Self-Image scores. Six subjects were referred for counseling due to
“clinical depression.” This was a sound, early study on the emotional needs of young fathers.
The limitations included a small sample that decreased generalizability, and no precise
definition of “clinical depression.”
There have been several papers written about depression and fathers using the Fragile
Families Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) data (Bronte-Tinkew, Moore, Matthews, & Carrano,
2007; McLanahan, Garfinkel, Brooks-Gunn, Zhao, Johnson, Rich, et al., 1998; Meadows, 2007).
The FFCWS used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at baseline, and
then the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form (CIDI-SF) in subsequent waves
of data collection to assess depression. The CIDI-SF can yield a diagnosis for Major Depressive
Episode as defined by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual- IV, (American Psychiatric Association,
1994). For additional measurement, the FFCWS asked questions about levels of substance use. At
baseline, 36% of the FFCWS sample scored as having 6 or more symptoms in the past week as
measured by the CES-D (McLanahan, et al.); Ten percent of the FFCWS sample scored as having
had a major depressive episode within the first year (Meadows). Meadows notes that some
limitations of the FFCWS data are that, although major depressive symptoms were measured
longitudinally, the CES-D, a more cross sectional measure was not. Collecting the CES-D
longitudinally as well, might have offered a different, richer, picture of FFCWS sample’s
The article, based on Families Child Wellbeing Study research, that is the most relevant to
this YUUF study, inspects the symptoms of major depression (as measured by the CIDI-SF) in
fathers with infants and how the depression correlates with sociodemographics and affects fathers’
involvement (Bronte-Tinkew, et al., 2007). The findings showed that symptoms of major
depression varied by race, marital, and employment status, but not by age or educational status.
Major depressive symptoms also varied significantly by amount of substance use and criminal
justice involvement. Fathers with major depression engaged in fewer parent child activities,
experienced more parenting stress, and had more difficult relationships with their children’s
Finally, several authors describe young fathers’ interpersonal struggles with being
thrust into a new role, and battling society’s and their families’ negative reactions to the new
parenting situation. These authors highlight the need for mental health treatment to be
integrated into fathers’ programs (Barth, et al., 1988; Kiselica, et al., 1994).
Summary of literature review
This literature review provided an intellectual understanding of the research project
by delineating relevant theory and then reviewing literature on the major concepts studied.
Literature on youth and depressive symptoms, problem behaviors, their co-occurrence were
reviewed. Young urban unwed fathers are a complex, understudied subset of youth that
require use of a multicontexual theoretical base for meaningful understanding of the research.
Domains reviewed included sociodemographics, coping, family factors, non-familial social
contacts, and living environment. Finally literature pertaining to young fathers and
psychological and behavioral functioning was examined.
Using a developmental-ecological model this study measured the severity and
prevalence of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors in YUUFs and correlated these
outcomes with key demographic and psychosocial information. A particular focus of the
study was to ascertain if and how much certain fathering factors contributed to depressive
symptoms and problem behaviors.