Academic journal article Fathering

Understanding the Contribution of a Father's Warmth on His Child's Social Skills

Academic journal article Fathering

Understanding the Contribution of a Father's Warmth on His Child's Social Skills

Article excerpt

Secondary analyses from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were conducted to investigate whether the impact of father-child relationship quality at 54 months and warmth in the father-child relationship at first grade were related to his child's social skills in the third grade, while controlling for mother-child interaction, father's personality, SES, and attachment. It was further investigated whether warmth in the relationship at first grade mediated the effect of the quality of the relationship on social skills. Participants included 856 families taken from the NICHD Study of Early Child Childcare for secondary analyses. Analyses indicated that the quality of interactions between a father and his 54-month old child was directly related to his child's social skills at 3rd grade. Latent variable structural equation modeling (SEM) found that the quality of early father-child interactions influences a child's later social outcomes through the development of a warm father-child relationship for daughters but not for sons. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.

Keywords: father-child relationship, father-daughter relationship, social skills, father warmth, father-child interactions

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The importance of mother-child relationships on later developmental outcomes has been well-documented (see Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005; Weinfeld, Sroufe, Egeland, & Carlson, 2008, for a review), and there has been increasing interest in investigating how the quality of father-child interactions may differentially influence a child's development (Grossman et al., 2002; Lamb & Lewis, 2004; MacDonald & Parke, 1984; Martin, Ryan, & Brooks-Gunn, 2010; Paquette, 2004; Parke et al., 2004; Russell & Saebel, 1997; Trautmann-Villalba, Gschwendt, Schmidt, & Laucht, 2006). More recent research has moved away from the study of how much time the father is involved in interactions with his children to attempt to better understand the processes and mechanisms by which father-child interactions may impact development (Adamsons, O'Brien, & Pasley, 2007). Research on the distinctiveness of sex differences in parent-child relationships remains limited, however, when dyadic distinctiveness has been found, it has been at the level of relationship measures such as closeness and affectivity (Russell & Saebel, 1997). Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1982) proposes that a child's early experiences with the primary caregiver impacts the development of interpersonal relationships, and adaptive outcomes have had consistent relationships with caregiver sensitivity (de Wolff & van IJzendoorn, 1997). Bowlby (1979) argued that children who experience their caregivers as responsive and sensitive to their needs would develop internal working models of the self as worthy and competent and would expect others to be responsive to them as well. Parental sensitivity is thought to influence the development of emotion regulation skills, which, in turn, is important for the development of social competence in relationships with peers and adults (Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Smith, 2004). Warmth is a component of sensitivity and is influential in the development of social competence and interpersonal skills, as well as emotion regulation (Bugental & Grusec, 2006). Other aspects of parent-child relationships may also contribute to the development of a child's social skills. For example, providing encouragement and emotional support to children may help with emotion regulation and persistence in the face of conflict, and respecting autonomy and encouraging the child's independence may serve to encourage appropriate risk-taking (NICHD-SECC ECCRN, 2002). Nevertheless, parental warmth may provide a unique contribution to a child's social competence.

MacDonald (1992) argued that "the dimension of parent-child warmth has emerged independently in several factor analytic studies of parenting" (p. …

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