Beyond Rough and Tumble: Low-Income Fathers' Interactions and Children's Cognitive Development at 24 Months

Jacqueline D. Shannon, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Kevin London, Natasha Cabrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. The purpose of this investigation was to explore associations between father-child interactions and children's cognitive status in an underrepresented group of low-income, ethnically diverse families. Design. Participants were 65 inner-city fathers and their 24-month-old children (34 boys, 31 girls). Father-child interactions were videotaped for 10 min at home during semistructured free play, and mental scale scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development were obtained on children. The quality of father-child interactions was assessed using 14 Likert ratings of fathers (e.g., responsiveness, language quality, and intrusiveness) and 12 of children (e.g., play, participation, emotional regulation, and communication). Results. Factor analyses revealed 2 patterns of engagement in fathers (Responsive-Didactic and Negative-Intrusive) and 3 in children (Playful-Communicative, Social, and Regulated). Thirty-six children scored within normal limits on the MDI and 29 scored in the delayed range. Together, fathers' and children's factor scores explained more than 25% of the variance in children's performance on the MDI. Logistic regressions indicated that fathers with high scores on the Responsive-Didactic factor were nearly 5 times more likely to have children within the normal range on the MDI than were low-scoring fathers. Conclusions. These findings point to the importance of considering fathers' role in early cognitive development, particularly in low-income families in which children begin to exhibit significant declines in their second and third years. Positive father-child interactions appear to obviate cognitive delay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-104
Number of pages28
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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