Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Daily Variation in Paternal Engagement and Negative Mood: Implications for Emotionally Supportive and Conflictual Interactions

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Daily Variation in Paternal Engagement and Negative Mood: Implications for Emotionally Supportive and Conflictual Interactions

Article excerpt

This study used an ecological perspective to examine how daily variation in the time fathers spend in child-care activities was related to emotionally supportive or conflictual father-child interactions and whether fathers' negative mood moderated these associations. Data for the present analyses were from 2 daily diary studies. Both studies asked fathers to report about their daily experiences with their children, including how much time they spent with them and whether or not they had any supportive interactions or conflictual interactions. The first study used daily self-report questionnaires from a sample of fathers in rural upstate New York, and the second study used daily telephone interviews from a national sample of fathers. Results from a series of hierarchical linear models showed that fathers were more likely to have supportive and conflictual interactions on days when they spent more time engaged in child-care activities. The association between time with children and conflictual interactions was greater on days when fathers were in a negative mood. Negative mood did not moderate the association between time with children and emotionally supportive interactions. The

findings from this study suggest that when fathers spend more time with their children they are more likely to engage in supportive interactions, regardless of negative mood.

Public conceptions of the role of fathers in the family have shifted from viewing fathers primarily as breadwinners and disciplinarians to recognizing fathers as active and nurturing participants in all aspects of childrearing (Lamb, 1997). This public emergence of the "new fatherhood" has prompted researchers to examine how fathers' involvement in the day-to-day care of their children affects the quality of father-child relations. Indeed, several researchers have proposed that spending time taking care of children provides fathers with opportunities to display affection and to nurture their children (Almeida & Galambos, 1991; Coltrane, 1996; Ishii-Kuntz, 1994; Lamb, 1997). Increased contact may also open the door to more father-child conflicts (Almeida & Galambos, 1991). In this article we apply an ecological perspective on parenting and examine the relationship between the quantity of time fathers spend engaged in direct father-child activities and the likelihood of their having emotionally supportive or conflictual interactions with their children. We further investigate the moderating effect of fathers' negative mood on these associations.

Although the new fatherhood has welcomed many highly committed men who have embraced their parenting role, some fathers have retreated from their family obligations, becoming what Gerson (1993) labels "autonomous men." We believe that examining the amount of time fathers spend with their children is critical in understanding the father-child relationship. As Larson and Richards (1994) aptly state, "the minutes and hours of people's everyday lives are the arena in which family warmth is created-or family problems take shape and build steam" (p. 8). Although the quantity of interaction alone does not indicate the quality of the father-child relationship (Lamb, 1997; Marsiglio, 1991; Palkovitz, 1997), research has shown that increased time spent in routine child-care activities is related to fathers' enhanced self-confidence and competence as providers of emotional support to their children (Coltrane, 1996). We argue that researchers must attend to both the duration of father involvement and the context and quality of the activities that occupy fathers' time (Daly & Dienhart, 1998). To that end, the present study extends previous research by examining how daily variation in the time fathers spend in child-care activities is related to the type and form of day-to-day father-child interactions.

QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY OF INVOLVEMENT

Although some researchers find no relationship between the quality and quantity of father-child interactions (Grossman, Pollack, & Golding, 1988; Lamb, 1997), Aldous, Mulligan, and Bjarnason (1998) contend that both the frequency and form of father-child interactions play an important role in the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. …

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