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Influence of Father Involvement, Fathering Practices and Father-Child Relationships on Children in Mainland China

Abstract

Although Chinese cultural beliefs highlight the significant role of fathers in educating and disciplining their children, little empirical research has explored the role of Chinese fathers more broadly on child adjustment. This study used survey methodology to examine the effect of father involvement, fathering practices, and father-child relationships on child adjustment in Mainland China. Participants were 609 mother-father dyads with at least one child aged 3 to 7 years in preschool. Fathers reported on their involvement and relationships with their children and fathering practices, and mothers reported on child adjustment. Results indicated that paternal inconsistency, coercive parenting, and father-child relationships were significant predictors of behavioral and emotional problems in children. Father involvement, positive encouragement, and father-child relationships were significantly associated with child competencies (positive child behaviors). Additionally, paternal inconsistency and father-child relationships moderated the relationship between father involvement and child behavioral and emotional problems. At low levels of paternal inconsistency, higher father involvement was related to lower behavioral and emotional problems in children; yet, at high levels of paternal inconsistency, higher father involvement was associated with higher behavioral and emotional problems. When father-child relationships were poor, higher father involvement was also related to more behavioral and emotional problems. The findings highlight the importance of considering both the quantity and quality of fathering in child development. When combined with poor fathering practices, increased father involvement may not be beneficial and could potentially be harmful for child adjustment.

Highlights

  • Paternal inconsistency, coercive parenting, and father-child relationships were related to child behavioral and emotional problems.

  • Father involvement, positive encouragement, and father-child relationships were associated with child competencies.

  • Paternal inconsistency and father-child relationships moderated the relationship between father involvement and child adjustment.

  • The findings suggest the importance of the quality of fathering when getting fathers involved with their children.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to all the parents who participated in this study. We would also like to thank the research assistants from Fujian Normal University.

Funding

This research was supported in part by research support funds from the School of Psychology, the University of Queensland.

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Correspondence to Mingchun Guo.

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The Parenting and Family Support Centre is partly funded by royalties stemming from published resources of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which is developed and owned by The University of Queensland (UQ). Royalties are also distributed to the Faculty of Health and Behavioral Sciences at UQ and contributory authors of published Triple P resources. Triple P International (TPI) Pty Ltd is a private company licensed by Uniquest Pty Ltd on behalf of UQ, to publish and disseminate Triple P worldwide. The authors of this report have no share or ownership of TPI. Drs Dittman, Haslam, and Morawska receive(s)/may in future receive royalties and/or consultancy fees from TPI. TPI had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, or writing of this report. Yang Liu is a student at UQ. Drs Dittman and Haslam are honorary researchers at UQ. Dr Morawska is an employee at UQ.

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Liu, Y., Dittman, C.K., Guo, M. et al. Influence of Father Involvement, Fathering Practices and Father-Child Relationships on Children in Mainland China. J Child Fam Stud 30, 1858–1870 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01986-4

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Keywords

  • Chinese father
  • Father involvement
  • Fathering practices
  • Father-child relationships
  • Child adjustment