High-quality father involvement in childrearing is associated with positive child outcomes. Yet, variability between fathers in parenting quality remains. The present study examined associations between maternal gatekeeping and fathers’ observed parenting quality in 182 dual-earner families who transitioned to parenthood in 2008–2009. Maternal gatekeeping, or beliefs and behaviors that may serve to discourage (gate close) or encourage (gate open) father involvement in childrearing, was measured using fathers’ reports at 3- and 9-months postpartum. Fathers’ parenting quality was assessed during a brief observational task at 3- and 9-months postpartum. A cross-lagged structural equation model, which included repeated measures of maternal gate closing, gate opening, and fathers’ parenting quality (i.e., sensitivity, detachment, and positive regard) at 3- and 9-months postpartum, revealed associations between maternal gatekeeping and fathers’ parenting quality. In particular, fathers who experienced greater gate closing at 3-months postpartum showed greater relative declines in parenting quality at 9-months postpartum. Of note, maternal gate opening at 3-months postpartum was not associated with fathers’ parenting quality at 9-months postpartum. Additionally, paths from fathers’ parenting quality at 3-months postpartum to maternal gatekeeping at 9-months postpartum were not significant. This is the first study to examine longitudinal associations between maternal gatekeeping and fathers’ parenting quality.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adamsons, K. (2010). Using identity theory to develop a midrange model of parental gatekeeping and parenting behavior. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 2(2), 137–148. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-2589.2010.00047.x.
Ainsworth, M., Bell., S. M., & Slayton, D. J. (1974). Infant-mother attachment and social development: Socialization as a product of reciprocal responsiveness to signals. In M. P. M. Richards (Ed.), The integration of a child into a social world. London: Cambridge University Press.
Allen, S. M., & Hawkins, A. J. (1999). Maternal gatekeeping: Mothers’ beliefs and behaviors that inhibit greater father involvement in family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 199–212. https://doi.org/10.2307/353894.
Austin, W. G., Fieldstone, L., & Pruett, M. K. (2013). Bench book for assessing parental gatekeeping in parenting disputes: Understanding the dynamics of gate closing and opening for the best interests of children. Journal of Child Custody, 10, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/15379418.2013.778693.
Austin, W. G., Pruett, M. K., Kirkpatrick, H. D., Flens, J. R., & Gould, J. W. (2013). Parental gatekeeping and child custody/child access evaluation: Part I: Conceptual framework, research, and application. Family Court Review, 51(3), 485–501. https://doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12045.
Barnett, M. A., Deng, M., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Willoughby, M., & Cox, M. (2008). Interdependence of parenting of mothers and fathers of infants. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(4), 561–573. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-322.214.171.1241.
Barry, A. A., Smith, J. Z., Deutsch, F. M., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2011). Fathers’ involvement in child care and perceptions of parenting skill over the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Issues, 32, 1500–1521. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X11406229.
Beitel, A. H., & Parke, R. D. (1998). Paternal involvement in infancy: The role of maternal and paternal attitudes. Journal of Family Psychology, 12(2), 268–288. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3126.96.36.1998.
Belsky, J. (1984). The determinants of parenting: A process model. Child Development, 55, 83–96.
Brown, G. L., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Neff, C. (2012). Father involvement, paternal sensitivity, and father− child attachment security in the first 3 years. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 421–430. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027836.
Brown, G. L., McBride, B. A., Shin, N., & Bost, K. K. (2007). Parenting predictors of father–child attachment security: Interactive effects of father involvement and fathering quality. Fathering, 5(3), 197–219. https://doi.org/10.3149/fth.0503.197.
Cabrera, N. J., Fagan, J., & Farrie, D. (2008). Explaining the long reach of fathers’ prenatal involvement on later paternal engagement. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(5), 1094–1107. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00551.x.
Cabrera, N. J., Shannon, J. D., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2007). Fathers’ influence on their children’s cognitive and emotional development: From toddlers to pre-K. Applied Development Science, 11(4), 208–213. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888690701762100.
Coley, R. L., & Morris, J. E. (2002). Comparing father and mother reports of father involvement among low‐income minority families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(4), 982–997. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00982.x.
Cook, J. L., Jones, R. M., Dick, A. J., & Singh, A. (2005). Revisiting men’s role in father involvement: The importance of personal expectations. Fathering, 3(2), 165–178.
Cook, J. C., Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Buckley, C. K., & Davis, E. F. (2009). Are some children harder to coparent than others? Children’s negative emotionality and coparenting relationship quality. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(4), 606–610. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015992.
Cox, M., & Crnic, K. (2002). Qualitative ratings for parent-child interaction at 3-12 months of age. Unpublished manuscript, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cox, M. J., & Paley, B. (1997). Families as systems. Annual Review of Psychology, 48, 243–267. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.48.1.243.
DeLuccie, M. F. (1995). Mothers as gatekeepers: A model of maternal mediators of father involvement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1154–1166.
Doherty, W. J., Erickson, M. F., & LaRossa, R. (2006). An intervention to increase father involvement and skills with infants during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 438–447. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3188.8.131.528.
Enders, C. K. (2013). Dealing with missing data in developmental research. Child Development Perspectives, 7(1), 27–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12008.
Evertsson, M., & Nermo, M. (2007). Changing resources and the division of housework: A longitudinal study of Swedish couples. European Sociological Review, 23(4), 455–470. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcm018.
Fagan, J., & Cherson, M. (2015). Maternal gatekeeping the associations among facilitation, encouragement, and low-income fathers’ engagement with young children. Journal of Family Issues, 54, 581–589. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X15578007.
Feinberg, M. E. (2003). The internal structure and ecological context of coparenting: A framework for research and intervention. Parenting: Science and Practice, 3, 95–131. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327922PAR0302_01.
Feinberg, M. E., Brown, L. D., & Kan, M. L. (2012). A multi-domain self-report measure of coparenting. Parenting, 12, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2012.638870.
Fletcher, R., May, C., Morgan, P. J., St George, J., & Lubans, D. R. (2011). Fathers’ perceptions of rough-and-tumble play: Implications for early childhood services. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36, 131–138.
Gaunt, R. (2008). Maternal gatekeeping: Antecedents and consequences. Journal of Family Issues, 29(3), 373–395.
Goldberg, A. E., Smith, J. Z., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2012). The division of labor in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual new adoptive parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74(4), 812–828. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00992.x.
Grossmann, K., Grossmann, K. E., Fremmer-Bombik, E., Kindler, H., & Scheuerer-Englisch, H. (2002). The uniqueness of the child–father attachment relationship: Fathers’ sensitive and challenging play as a pivotal variable in a 16‐year longitudinal study. Social Development, 11(3), 301–337. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00202.
Henwood, K., & Procter, J. (2003). The ‘good father’: Reading men’s accounts of paternal involvement during the transition to first‐time fatherhood. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 337–355. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466603322438198.
Hofferth, S. L., Pleck, J., Stueve, J. L., Bianchi, S., & Sayer, L. (2002). The demography of fathers: What fathers do. In C. Tamis-LeMonda & N. Cabrera (Eds.), Handbook of father involvement.. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hohmann-Marriott, B. (2011). Coparenting and father involvement in married and unmarried coresident couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 296–309. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00805.x.
Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705519909540118.
Isley, S., O’Neil, R., & Parke, R. D. (1996). The relation of parental affect and control behaviors to children’s classroom acceptance: A concurrent and predictive analysis. Early Education and Development, 7(1), 7–23. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15566935eed0701_2.
Jeynes, W. H. (2016). Meta-Analysis on the Roles of Fathers in Parenting: Are They Unique? Marriage & Family Review, 52, 665–688. https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2016.1157121.
Jia, R., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2011). Relations between coparenting and father involvement in families with preschool-age children. Developmental Psychology, 47, 106–118. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020802.
Klerman, J. A., Daley, K., Pozniak, A., (2013). Family and Medical Leave in 2013: Technical report. U.S. Department of Labor. Washington, D.C.: Abt Associates. http://www.dol.gov/asp/evaluation/fmla/FMLA-2012-Technical-Report.pdf.
Laflamme, D., Pomerleau, A., & Malcuit, G. (2002). A comparison of fathers’ and mothers’ involvement in childcare and stimulation behaviours during free-play with their infants at 9 and 15 months. Sex Roles, 47, 507–518. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022069720776.
Lamb, M. E. (2010). How do fathers influences children’s development? Let me count the ways. In M. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development. 5th ed. (pp. 1–26). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Lamb, M. E., Frodi, A. M., Hwang, C. P., Frodi, M., & Steinberg, J. (1982). Mother–and father–infant interaction involving play and holding in traditional and nontraditional Swedish families. Developmental Psychology, 18, 215–221. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.206.
Lewis, C., & Lamb, M. E. (2003). Fathers’ influences on children’s development: The evidence from two-parent families. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 18, 211–228. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03173485.
Lindsey, E. W., Cremeens, P. R., & Caldera, Y. M. (2010). Mother–child and father–child mutuality in two contexts: Consequences for young children’s peer relationships. Infant and Child Development, 19, 142–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.645.
Mangelsdorf, S. C., McHale, J. L., Diener, M., Goldstein, L. H., & Lehn, L. (2000). Infant attachment: Contributions of infant temperament and maternal characteristics. Infant Behavior and Development, 23(2), 175–196.
Manlove, E., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2002). Caring for infant daughters and sons in dual-earner households: Maternal reports of father involvement in weekday time and tasks. Infant and Child Development, 11, 305–320. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.260.
Martin, A., Ryan, R. M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2007). The joint influence of mother and father parenting on child cognitive outcomes at age 5. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 423–439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2007.07.001.
McBride, B. A., Brown, G. L., Bost, K. K., Shin, N., Vaughn, B., & Korth, B. (2005). Paternal Identity, Maternal Gatekeeping, and Father Involvement. Family Relations, 54, 360–372. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2005.00323.x.
McBride, B. A., Schoppe, S. J., & Rane, T. R. (2002). Child characteristics, parenting stress, and parental involvement: Fathers versus mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 998–1011. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00998.x.
Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moen, P., & Roehling, P. (2005). The career mystique: Cracks in the American dream. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Muthén L.K., & Muthén, B.O. (2010) Missing Data Modeling. http://www.statmodel.com/discussion/messages/22/22.html.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2000). Factors associated with fathers’ caregiving activities and sensitivity with young children. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 200–219. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3220.127.116.11.
Paquette, D. (2004). Theorizing the father-child relationship: Mechanisms and developmental outcomes. Human Development, 47, 193–219. https://doi.org/10.1159/000078723.
Pixley, J. E. & Moen, P. (2003). Prioritizing Careers. In: In P. Moen(ed.) It’s about time: Couples and careers. (pp. 183–200). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Pleck, J. H. (2010). Paternal involvement: Revised conceptualizations and theoretical linkages with child outcome. The role of the father in child development. 5th ed. (pp. 58–93). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Pleck, J. H., & Masciadrelli, B. P. (2004). Paternal involvement by U.S. residential fathers: Levels, sources, and consequences. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (4th ed., pp. 222–271). New York, NY: Wiley.
Puhlman, D. J., & Pasley, K. (2013). Rethinking maternal gatekeeping. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 5, 176–193. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12016.
Putnam, S. P., Helbig, A. L., Gartstein, M. A., Rothbart, M. K., & Leerkes, E. (2014). Development and assessment of short and very short forms of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire–Revised. Journal of Personality Assessment, 96, 445–458. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2013.841171.
Sano, Y., Richards, L. N., & Zvonkovic, A. M. (2008). Are mothers really “gatekeepers” of children? Rural mothers’ perceptions of nonresident fathers’ involvement in low-income families. Journal of Family Issues, 29(12), 1701–1723. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X08321543.
Sanson, A., & Rothbart, M. K. (1995). Child temperament and parenting. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting. Applied and Practical Parenting 4, (299–321). New Jersey: Erlbaum.
Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97, 153–158. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00572.x.
Shockley, K. M., & Allen, T. D. (2018). It’s not what I expected: The association between dual-earner couples’ met expectations for the division of paid and family labor and well-being. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 104, 240–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2017.11.009.
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Altenburger, L. E., Lee, M. A., Bower, D. J., & Kamp Dush, C. M. (2015). Who are the gatekeepers? Predictors of maternal gatekeeping. Parenting, 15, 166–186. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2015.1053321.
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Brown, G. L., Cannon, E. A., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Sokolowski, M. S. (2008). Maternal gatekeeping, coparenting quality, and fathering behavior in families with infants. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 389–398. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-318.104.22.1689.
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Diener, M. L., Mangelsdorf, S. C., Brown, G. L., McHale, J. L., & Frosch, C. A. (2006). Attachment and sensitivity in family context: The roles of parent and infant gender. Infant and Child Development, 15(4), 367–385. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.449.
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Mangelsdorf, S. C., Brown, G. L., & Sokolowski, M. S. (2007). Goodness-of-fit in family context: Infant temperament, marital quality, and early coparenting behavior. Infant Behavior and Development, 30(1), 82–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.11.008.
Shannon, J. D., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., London, K., & Cabrera, N. (2002). Beyond rough and tumble: Low-income fathers’ interactions and children’s cognitive development at 24 months. Parenting: Science and Practice, 2, 77–104. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327922PAR0202_01.
Stevenson, M., & Crnic, K. (2013). Intrusive fathering, children’s self‐regulation and social skills: A mediation analysis. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57(6), 500–512. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2788.2012.01549.x.
Stevenson, M. M., Fabricius, W. V., Cookston, J. T., Parke, R. D., Coltrane, S., Braver, S. L., & Saenz, D. S. (2014). Marital problems, maternal gatekeeping attitudes, and father–child relationships in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 50(4), 1208–1218. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035327.
Sweeney, K. K., Goldberg, A. E., & Garcia, R. L. (2017). Not a “mom thing”: Predictors of gatekeeping in same-sex and heterosexual parent families. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(5), 521–531. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000261.
The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Employment Characteristics of Families: 2015. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf.
Thomassin, K., & Suveg, C. (2014). Reciprocal positive affect and well-regulated, adjusted children: a unique contribution of fathers. Parenting, 14(1), 28–46. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2014.880017.
Van Egeren, L. A. (2000). The Parental Regulation Inventory. East Lansing: Michigan State University. Unpublished manuscript.
Van Egeren, L. A., & Hawkins, D. P. (2004). Coming to terms with coparenting: Implications of definition and measurement. Journal of Adult Development, 11(3), 165–178. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JADE.0000035625.74672.0b.
Volling, B. L., McElwain, N. L., Notaro, P. C., & Herrera, C. (2002). Parents’ emotional availability and infant emotional competence: Predictors of parent-infant attachment and emerging self-regulation. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(4), 447–465. https://doi.org/10.1037//0893-322.214.171.1247.
Walker, A. J., & McGraw, L. A. (2000). Who is responsible for responsible fathering? Journal of Marriage and family, 62, 563–569. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00563.x.
Waller, M. R., & Swisher, R. (2006). Fathers’ risk factors in fragile families: Implications for “healthy” relationships and father involvement. Social Problems, 53, 392–420. https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2006.53.3.392.
Yavorsky, J. E., Kamp Dush, C. M., & Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J. (2015). The production of inequality: The gender division of labor across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 662–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12189.
Zvara, B. J., Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J., & Kamp Dush, C. (2013). Fathers’ involvement in child health care: Associations with prenatal involvement, parents’ beliefs, and maternal gatekeeping. Family Relations, 62, 649–661. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12023.
This paper and its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF, NICHD, or The Ohio State University. The New Parents Project was funded by the National Science Foundation (CAREER 0746548, Schoppe-Sullivan), with additional support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; 1K01HD056238, Kamp Dush), and The Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research (NICHD R24HD058484) and program in Human Development and Family Science.
LEA: designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and took the lead role on writing the manuscript. SJS: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. CKD: collaborated in editing the final manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The Ohio State University Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Altenburger, L.E., Schoppe-Sullivan, S.J. & Kamp Dush, C.M. Associations Between Maternal Gatekeeping and Fathers’ Parenting Quality. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2678–2689 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1107-3
- Maternal gatekeeping
- Father involvement
- Parenting quality