Fathering in Infancy: Mutuality and Stability Between 8 and 16 Months

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. This longitudinal investigation explores how fathers engage with their infants, how their behaviors matter within and across developmental time, and how demographic and social factors affect the quality of the father - infant relationship. Design. Participants were 74 racially and ethnically diverse, low-income fathers from the Father and Newborn Study (FANS) and their 8- and 16-month-old infants (36 boys, 38 girls). Father - infant interactions were videotaped during semistructured free play in participants' homes. The quality of father - infant interactions was assessed using Likert-type ratings of fathers' and infants' behaviors. Fathers also rated their relationship with their infant's mother. Results. Two factors of father engagement emerged at each age (Responsive - Didactic and Negative - Overbearing), 2 factors of infant behavior at 8 months (Mastery, Social - Communicative), and 3 factors of infant behavior at 16 months (Mastery, Social, and Communicative). Responsive - Didactic fathering was concurrently associated with infant behaviors at both ages, although fathering at 8 months only marginally predicted infant 16-month Social behaviors. Fathers who were older, more educated, married to their partners, and who had higher incomes were more Responsive - Didactic at 8 months. Fathers' age and the quality of the mother - father relationship predicted fathers' Responsive - Didactic behaviors at the 16-month assessment. Conclusions. Fathers' responsiveness is important to infants' social and communicative behaviors, and the mother - father relationship influences fathering during the formative period of infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-188
Number of pages22
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - May 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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