Adolescents who receive a reason for the father's behavior or a better understanding of who is at fault feel better about themselves and about dad as well.
Those feelings about dad, in turn, are linked to a lower risk of depression for youth, the study said.
The study is the first to explore the intricacies of what SF State's Jeff Cookston, a professor and chair of the psychology department who has done extensive studies on fatherhood, calls "guided cognitive reframing."
Previous research looked at who adolescents sought out for reframing and why; this study takes that research a step further.
"There has been a lot of evidence suggesting that talking to people about conflict is a good thing for adolescents," he said.
"What we did for the first time was look at what actually happens when they talk to someone," he added.
The study is published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.