Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Domains of Father Involvement, Social Competence and Problem Behavior in Preschool Children

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Domains of Father Involvement, Social Competence and Problem Behavior in Preschool Children

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Many studies reported that father involvement is associated with a wide range of developmental out comes; however, evidence is weaker when controlling for correlated mother involvement and when using different informants to assess father involvement and children development. Our study aimed to research the association between father involvement and preschoolers' social competence, controlling for mother involvement, family demographics, parental stress, time spent in day-care, existence of siblings and child's characteristics. Participants were 295 children between 36 and 71 months of age, 52% girls, all living in resident-father families. Hierarchical multiple regression models were performed entering the predictors in three blocks: Child related variables, family demographics and stress, father relative involvement with the child. Results suggest that father involvement in leisure activities outdoors is a direct predictor of social competence, and also of lower externalizing problems, especially for boys.

KEYWORDS: father involvement, social competence, problem behavior


Human species-typical parental care is quite exceptional due to the great amount of father involvement with their offspring associated with bi-parental care strategies (Feldman, Gordon, Schneiderman, Weisman, & Zagoory-Sharon, 2010; Huber & Breedlove, 2007; Kleiman, 1984). Even if fathers typically invest less time and effort than mothers do (Hewlett, 1991), they invest a significant amount of their time and resources in children and are a great deal more involved in childcare than males of most other mammalian species (Geary, 2000; Geary & Flinn, 2001; Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, & Levine, 1985). Not with standing, father parental investment varies greatly in different social ecologies and cultures (Draper & Belsky, 1990; Draper & Harpending, 1988; Huber & Breedlove, 2007) and also in different families within the same culture (Anderson, Kaplan, & Lancaster, 1999). Father investment as a reproductive strategy has been broadly described as having two main components: Direct investment and indirect investment (Draper & Harpending, 1988; Geary & Flinn, 2001; Kleiman, 1984; Trivers, 1972). Direct investment comprises proximal processes of interaction with the child, i.e., engagement, typically in the form of caretaking, play, discipline, etc., while indirect investment comprises the provision of subsistence means and accumulation of capital that affords resources both to the offspring as well as to the father himself (Draper & Harpending, 1988).

During the late 20th century, macro-societal and cultural changes in gender roles urged many fathers to be more directly involved in the care of children (Amato & Rivera, 1999; Gershuny, Bittman, &c Brice, 2005; Lamb, 2010; Pleck, 2010). In other words, father investment has changed from mostly indirect forms such as breadwinning and masculine role-modeling and has become more direct, proximal and engaged (Pleck, 2010). Although in dual-earner households many fathers still take care of their children less than mothers do, a trend toward greater equity in proximal childcare between parents is clearly evident (Lamb & Lewis, 2010).


A vast empirical literature has supported the conclusion that father cohabitation and greater involvement with the child have positive effects in the behavioral, social, and cognitive development of young children (e.g., Belsky, 2012; Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000; Frank & Paris, 1981; Lamb & Lewis, 2010; Monteiro, Verfssimo, Vaughn, Santos, & Bost, 2008; Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 1998; Tamis-LeMonda & Cabrera, 1999). A recent systematic review of 24 longitudinal studies involving approximately 22,300 individual datasets concluded that active and regular father engagement with the child predicts a range of positive outcomes (Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, & Bremberg, 2008). …

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