Objective: This study investigated whether fathers' involvement in play with young children was more susceptible than mothers' involvement to coparenting relationships in low-income families and examined child gender and fathers' residential status as moderators of susceptibility. Background: Parental involvement in developmentally appropriate and stimulating activities benefits young children. The coparenting relationship plays an important role in shaping parental involvement, and its impact may be stronger for fathers, rendering fathers more susceptible. Method: Data were drawn from 4606 families in the Building Strong Families project. Mothers and fathers reported coparenting relationship quality and involvement in play with children at 15- and 36-month follow-up studies. Cross-lagged panel models were used incorporating actor-partner interdependence. Results: Overall, fathers' involvement was more strongly affected by coparenting relationship quality than mothers' involvement. Elevated susceptibility to coparenting did not apply to all fathers. The involvement of fathers of girls (vs. fathers of boys) and non-resident fathers (vs. resident fathers) was more strongly affected by fathers' perceptions of coparenting. The actor effect from coparenting to involvement was stronger for fathers than mothers in families with non-resident fathers. No significant differences were found in partner effects. Conclusion: This study reveals that parents' susceptibility is multiply determined and highlights the importance of considering the interrelated nature of family subsystems. Intervention programs targeting parenting and coparenting should spare more efforts to involve fathers, especially those whose engagement in parenting may be most susceptible to family processes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (Grant #90PR0015). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the study sponsors.
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Marriage and Family published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.
- low-income families
- parent involvement