Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 2335–2345 | Cite as

Father-Son Relationships in Ethnically Diverse Families: Links To Boys’ Cognitive and Social Emotional Development in Preschool

  • Claire E.  BakerEmail author
Original Paper


This study conceptualized father involvement as a multidimensional construct—including warmth, control/discipline and home learning stimulation—and examined associations among father involvement across toddlerhood and their sons’ cognitive and social emotional development in preschool. Analyses also tested whether these associations were moderated by ethnicity and poverty status. A total of 4240 young boys were included in the study (20% African American, 26% Hispanic and 54% Caucasian). Results showed that paternal warmth and home learning stimulation (at 24-months) positively predicted cognitive and social emotional skills across all three racial groups (at 48-months/preschool). Furthermore, tests of moderation by ethnicity revealed that paternal control/discipline was related to fewer problem behaviors, higher engagement scores, and more advanced math skills only among boys who were African American. Finally, tests of moderation by poverty status showed that paternal warmth had a stronger association with boys’ reading skills when they lived above the poverty line. These findings emphasize the importance of culturally sensitive models of child development that examine the influence of fathers from a dyadic perspective.


Father-son Cognitive development Social emotional development ECLS-B 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

We used secondary data analysis so there was no direct contact with actual human participants in this study.

Informed Consent

This was a secondary data analysis of data from the ECLS-B. Informed consent was obtained by the U.S. Department of Education from teachers and parents prior their inclusion in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Developmental Science, Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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