Fathers' sensitive parenting and the development of early executive functioning

Nissa R. Towe-Goodman, Michael Willoughby, Hanna C. Gustafsson, W. Roger Mills-Koonce, Martha J. Cox, Clancy Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using data from a diverse sample of 620 families residing in rural, predominately low-income communities, this study examined longitudinal links between fathers' sensitive parenting in infancy and toddlerhood and children's early executive functioning, as well as the contribution of maternal sensitive parenting. After accounting for the quality of concurrent and prior parental care, children's early cognitive ability, and other child and family factors, fathers' and mothers' sensitive and supportive parenting during play at 24 months predicted children's executive functioning at 3 years of age. In contrast, paternal parenting quality during play at 7 months did not make an independent contribution above that of maternal care, but the links between maternal sensitive and supportive parenting and executive functioning seemed to operate in similar ways during infancy and toddlerhood. These findings add to prior work on early experience and children's executive functioning, suggesting that both fathers and mothers play a distinct and complementary role in the development of these self-regulatory skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-876
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Executive functioning
  • Fathers
  • Mothers
  • Parenting
  • Sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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