African American, White and Latino Fathers' Activities with their Sons and Daughters in Early Childhood

Ashley Smith Leavell, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Diane N. Ruble, Kristina M. Zosuls, Natasha J. Cabrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the activities that low-income, ethnically diverse fathers of sons versus daughters engage in with their children in the preschool years. African American, Latino, and White fathers (N=426) from research sites across the United States, were interviewed about their caregiving, play, literacy, and visiting activities when their children were 2 years, 3 years, and preschool age. Fathers of boys engaged more frequently in physical play than fathers of girls, whereas fathers of girls engaged more frequently in literacy activities. Moreover, gendered patterns of father engagement were already evident at the 2-year assessment, suggesting that fathers channel their children toward gender-typed activities well before their children have a clear understanding of gender roles. Ethnic differences were also found in fathers' activities with children, and child gender moderated ethnic patterns of behavior. For example, Black fathers of sons reported the highest levels of engagement in caregiving, play and visiting activities, and both Latino and African American fathers of sons engaged in more visiting activities compared to White fathers of sons. Fathers' education and marital status were also associated with fathers' activities. Married fathers and those with a high school diploma more frequently engaged in literacy activities than unmarried fathers without a diploma; moreover, although Latino fathers engaged less in caregiving activities than African American and White fathers, this difference attenuated after controlling for differences in fathers' education. The activities children share with their fathers vary by child gender, race/ethnicity, and family circumstances and offer insight into early gendered experiences in the family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Child development
  • Culture
  • Daily routines
  • Father involvement
  • Fathers
  • Gender socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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