May 15, 2013 ( – Girls whose fathers were absent during the first five years of life are more likely than girls whose fathers become absent later in life (5-10 years old) to develop depressive symptoms in adolescence, or than boys in both age groups (0-5 and 5-10), even after a range of factors was taken into account, according to a new study.

The data was taken from Children of the 90s, which involves 5,631 children whose health and well-being has been charted since birth. 

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found that the increased risk was still present even after a wide range of other factors that can contribute to depression – including home ownership, social status, financial problems, family size, parental conflict, the mother’s educational background and history of depression – are taken into account.

The study “is one of only a few able to demonstrate a strong link between early childhood father absence and teenage girls’ risk of depressive symptoms,” said the study authors. Without fathers in the early years, children have a harder time developing emotional “coping mechanisms” than older children. The presence of fathers gives children more opportunities and resources to cope with life’s difficulties, as well as more social support networks, they said.

“Previous studies suggest that the stronger negative effect of father absence on the mental health of teenage girls over boys could be because girls are more vulnerable to negative interpersonal and family life events,” the authors added.

Iryna Culpin, the paper’s lead author said, “These findings indicate a need to include fathers in research related to child and adolescent mental health issues.”

Culpin told the Daily Mail, “We saw that girls who experienced divorce and a father’s absence in the first five years were more likely to develop advanced mental health, or health, issues, later in life.” The Mail noted that “about a third of British children experience separations or divorce before the age of 16.”