Academic journal article Fathering

Parenting Predictors of Father-Child Attachment Security: Interactive Effects of Father Involvement and Fathering Quality

Academic journal article Fathering

Parenting Predictors of Father-Child Attachment Security: Interactive Effects of Father Involvement and Fathering Quality

Article excerpt

This study examined the parenting predictors of father-child attachment security in early childhood. Results suggest that multiple dimensions of fathers' parenting quality moderated the associations between father involvement, in its original content-free sense, and father-child attachment. Specifically, father involvement was generally unrelated to attachment security when fathers engaged in high-quality parenting behavior, but associated with lower levels of attachment security when fathers' parenting was less adaptive. Findings provide further evidence for the important role of parenting quality in the father-child attachment relationship, and suggest that the consequences of involved fathering for father-child attachment security are dependent upon qualitative aspects of fathering behavior.

Keywords: father-child attachment, childhood, fathering, security

The last several decades have seen an increase in research incorporating fathers into studies of child and family development (Lamb & Tamis-Lemonda, 2004). In addition to documenting levels of paternal involvement, this research has also explored how fathers become involved, and the different forms that the paternal role may take. As interest in this topic grows, so too has the range of methodologies and theories used to capture the meaning of fatherhood and father--child relationships (see Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). Although fathering has been studied from a wide variety of perspectives, a lack of consensus definitions and unifying theories within fatherhood research remains one of the greatest challenges in this area.

Attachment theory has long been the predominant framework for the study of parent-child relationships in early childhood, and may well provide a useful approach for understanding fathers and child development (Pleck, in press). A vast body of research from this perspective indicates that attachment security is an index of parent-child relationship quality that develops largely as a function of parenting behavior (e.g., Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1969; Sroufe, 1985). Nonetheless, despite a voluminous body of research on parenting and mother-child attachment (see Cassidy & Shaver, 1999 for a review), we still know relatively little about what particular fathering behaviors promote father-child attachment. In particular, work from an attachment theory perspective has yet to adequately integrate the ever-growing literature on fathering behavior. Likewise, researchers concerned with documenting fathering behavior have generally not examined father-child attachment security as an outcome of this behavior. This study attempts to rectify these shortcomings by examining the unique and joint contributions of both fathers' parenting quality and father involvement to father-child attachment.

Father-Child Attachment

According to Bowlby (1969), attachment security represents the child's confidence in his or her caregiver, and is evident through the child's preferential desire for contact with the caregiver and use of the caregiver as a "secure base" from which to explore the environment. The parent-child attachment relationship forms through early patterns of interaction between the caregiver and child (e.g., Ainsworth & Bell, 1974; Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bowlby, 1969; Sroufe, 1985). A vast body of work has been devoted to elucidating the nature and origins of individual differences in mother-child attachment (see Weinfield, Sroufe, Egeland, & Carlson, 1999 for a review) and the consequences of these individual differences for concurrent and later development (see Thompson, 1999). Both attachment theory and attachment research have concluded that parenting quality is a major influence on developing attachment relationships. In particular, parental sensitivity has been implicated as the predominant source of attachment security (see De Wolff & van Ijzendoorn, 1997). …

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