Implications of Research

While psychology has a long history of researching attachment, early research focused on mothers’ relationships with children. It has not always been clear what a father’s role is in children’s development. Fortunately, there is a great deal of research examining how fathers are an important part of children’s development.
• After reading Read Jia, Kotila, and Schoppe-Sullivan’s 2012 article, “Transactional Relations Between Father Involvement and Preschoolers’ Socioemotional Adjustment,” from Journal of Family Psychology, volume 26, issue 6, pages 848–857.
consider the implications of this study’s findings. Then, complete the following:
• Describe what the authors studied.
• Describe the findings—how you understand the findings.
• Discuss the implications of the findings. (What value is there in the findings? How can we apply them? How could we effectively get this information out to parents who could benefit? Are there any risks or other drawbacks to implementing the findings?)

Transactional Relations Between Father Involvement and Preschoolers’ Socioemotional Adjustment
Rongfang Jia, Letitia E. Kotila, and Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan Ohio State University
Children’s socioemotional development is child as well as parent driven. Yet, transactional frameworks are rarely applied to studies of father–child relations. This study examined reciprocal associations between father involvement in play and caregiving and children’s adjustment and tested supportive coparenting behavior as a moderator of these associations. One hundred twelve families participated in a 1-year longitudinal study. Fathers reported on their involvement and mothers and teachers reported on preschoolers’ behavior at two time points, and supportive coparenting behavior was observed at the second time point. Results showed that father involvement in play predicted relative decreases in externalizing behaviors, and also relative decreases in internalizing behaviors and relative increases in social competence at school only when accompanied by supportive coparenting behavior; reciprocally, fathers showed relative reductions in their play with children initially high in internalizing behaviors perceived by teachers. Father involvement in caregiving predicted relative increases in children’s internalizing behaviors, but reciprocal effects indicated that these associations may be driven by children. The presence of reciprocal associations between father involvement and child behaviors that differed for play and caregiving domains and were moderated by supportive coparenting behavior suggests the importance of a transactional, domain-specific, and systemic approach to understanding father–child relations and the implementation of relevant intervention practices.
Keywords: socioemotional adjustment, father–child relationships, coparenting, preschool children, transactional relations
The notion that the development of child adjustment problems is child as well as parent driven has been widely accepted (Pardini, 2008). Children’s initial problematic behaviors contribute to change in parenting over time, just as they are influenced by parenting practices (Crouter & Booth, 2003). This bidirectional interchange between parent and child has been elaborated in transactional models (Bates & Pettit, 2007; Patterson, 2002; Sameroff, 1975) that illustrate how specific child behaviors may initially “push buttons” in parents, whose mismatched responses in turn escalatethechild’sinitialsymptoms.Althoughanawarenessofthe importance of the father to children’s socialization (Lamb, 2010) has spurred empirical studies linking father involvement to positive child socioemotional adjustment (Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, & Bremberg, 2008), fathers continue to be neglected in the developmental psychopathology literature (Cassano, Adrian,
Veits, & Zeman, 2006) and rarely has the transactional framework been applied to the study of relations between father involvement and child adjustment. To address these limitations, the current study examined reciprocal associations between father involvement and preschool-age children’s adjustment. Guided by domain-specific theory (Grusec & Davidov, 2010), which assumes that different parent–child interaction domains are governed by different rules and are associated with child outcomes in distinct ways, we considered two important domains of father involvement during the preschool years (i.e., play and caregiving), aiming to explore how the quantity of father involvement in the two different domains affects and is affected by children’s behavior.
Father Involvement in Play and Caregiving and Children’s Socioemotional Adjustment Fathers have often been described as “specializing” in playoriented activities with their children. Indeed, fathers spend a greater proportion of time in play with children than mothers (Paquette, 2004), and boisterous play interactions with fathers elicit highly positive responses from young children (Feldman, 2003), rendering this type of father involvement a salient and positive influence on preschoolers who are rapidly developing emotionally and socially (Roggman, Boyce, Cook, Christiansen, & Jones, 2004). Domain-specifictheory(Grusec&Davidov,2010)attributesthe benefits of father involvement in play to its “reciprocal” nature: parents and children engaged in playful interactions are mutually responsive to each other’s needs and interact as equal-status part
This article was published Online First October 15, 2012. Rongfang Jia, Letitia E. Kotila, and Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan, Department of Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University. This research was supported by a National Institute of Child Health and HumanDevelopmentgrant(R03HD050235)toSarahJ.Schoppe-Sullivan. We express gratitude to the parents, children, and teachers who participated in this study and the students who assisted with data collection and coding, especially Claire Cook, Angela Rule, Catherine Buckley, Evan Davis, and Arielle Sheftall. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rongfang Jia, Department of Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:
Journal of Family Psychology © 2012 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 26, No. 6, 848–857 0893-3200/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0030245
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
ners; children’s reasonable requests are accommodated by parents while they are taught to follow rules and compete in appropriate ways. This is consistent with Russell, Pettit, and Mize’s (1998) “horizontal” interaction and Paquette’s (2004) “activation relationship,” both emphasizing the significance of fathers’ arousing and responsible play in opening and adapting children to the world. Indeed, studies have found that high quality play with fathers gives children opportunities to practice skills involved in peer relationships, increasing children’s social competence (e.g., Lindsey, Mize, & Pettit, 1997). Mutually responsive father–child play also facilitates children’s self-regulation and development of compliance (Kochanska, Aksan, Prisco, & Adams, 2008), which reduces children’s risk for externalizing and internalizing behaviors (Bögels & Phares, 2008; Mattanah, 2001). However, research explicitly testing how father involvement in play, especially the quantity aspect (e.g., frequency or level of involvement), contributes to child adjustment is limited. On the other hand, parent–child interaction in caregiving activities such as feeding, bathing, or putting the child to bed is more “vertical,” with parents more reliant on authority and control over their children (Lindsey, Cremeens, & Caldera, 2010; Russell et al., 1998) and can be categorized under the “control” and “protection” domains (Grusec & Davidov, 2010). The “vertical” and “control” qualities of this domain increase uncertainty regarding the effect of level or frequency of father involvement in caregiving on child outcomes. Indeed, although some studies have shown that fathers who are more frequently involved in caregiving are high in parental efficacy (Barry, Smith, Deutsch, & Perry-Jenkins, 2011) and have more sociable infants (Frascarolo, 2004), in other studies the quantity of father involvement in caregiving either had few benefits (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1984) or was associated with poorer child behavioral adjustment (Culp, Schadle, Robinson, & Culp, 2000; Mitchell & Cabrera, 2009). These inconsistencies highlight the need to disentangle the domains of caregiving and play when examining the impact of father involvement on child adjustment. Just as father involvement may affect child adjustment, father involvement may also be affected by child behavior. However, few studies have considered this alternative possibility. Limited studies have shown that children with difficult temperaments, who are at risk for behavior problems, experience reduced father involvement (Manlove & Vernon-Feagans, 2002; McBride, Schoppe, & Rane, 2002). Whether these child-driven effects differ for play and caregiving involvement is unclear. Father involvement in play, which emphasizes children’s reciprocity with fathers, may be more dampened by the aversive effect of children’s problem behaviors, whereas father involvement in caregiving, which primarily functions to fulfill children’s needs, may be heightened when children’s needs are more challenging to meet. Thus far, only two studies have formally tested reciprocal links between father involvement and child adjustment and both focused on families with adolescents and relied on mothers or/and adolescents (but not fathers) as…