Fathers with High School Degrees More Likely to Engage in Positive Parenting In a study focused on approximately 300 racially and ethnically diverse low-income families nationwide, New York University professor of applied psychology Catherine Tamis-LeMonda has found a link between fathers’ supportive interactions with their children’s cognitive development at ages 2 and 3. Moreover, the Steinhardt School of Education professor’s study also uncovered that fathers with a high school education were more likely to engage in supportive interactions with their toddlers than those without one, and a father’s education was associated with childrens’ cognitive and language development at both ages. Specifically, children with fathers who were more sensitive in their engagements and those whose fathers had completed high school displayed greater language skills and higher test scores on the Bayley Mental Development Index of toddler assessment.

Entitled “Fathers and Mothers at Play with their 2- and 3-Year-Olds: Contributions to Language and Cognitive Development,” the study appears in the November/December 2004 issue of Child Development. Co-authors of this work are Jacqueline Shannon, NYU research scientist; Natasha Cabrera, assistant professor at the University of Maryland; and Michael Lamb, head research scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

“Past research on parental relationships and their affects on children place a significant focus on the mother, not the father,” said Tamis-LeMonda, “This study offers valuable new information on the important role that fathers play in children’s early development and how their interactions directly affect children’s language development and cognitive growth. Additionally, a supportive father not only promotes early cognitive and language development in his child but can also affect a mother’s supportive parenting over time.

“Education is essential to parenting,” added Tamis-LeMonda. “If a father has dropped out of high school, it creates difficult life circumstances in many ways. The challenges associated with school drop-out can interfere with a father’s ability to encourage his child’s development through activities such as reading books or teaching through play, which are key to promoting children’s early language skills and cognitive development during this pivotal stage.”

This research, funded by the NICHD, is the first in a series of studies led by Tamis-LeMonda to examine links between fathering, family relationships, and childhood development in the first years of life. It is a collaborative initiative with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Early Head Start National Research and Evaluation Projects. NYU is one of 17 research sites nationwide selected to investigate fathers’ involvement in childhood outcomes and other research.

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