The current study aims to replicate and extend previous research on father–child activation relationship theory, which suggests that fathers engage in stimulating, challenging, and directive parenting behaviors that are likely to benefit children’s development. A large and racially diverse sample of low-income, unmarried couples with young children (n = 672) was used to examine whether fathers and mothers exhibited an activation parenting profile (high sensitivity, positive regard, and stimulation of cognitive development, moderate levels of intrusive/directive behavior, and low detachment and negative regard). Observations of mother–child and father–child parenting behaviors during the two-bags task with preschool children were included in latent profile analysis to reveal 3 distinct parenting profiles for both fathers and mothers (i.e., supportive, activation, and intrusive), with the activation profile showing a pattern of moderate intrusiveness combined with sensitivity, positive regard, and cognitive stimulation. Four family configurations were created: (a) supportive mother/supportive father (23.74%), (b) supportive mother/activation father (9.24%), (c) activation mother/activation father (27.31%), and (d) activation mother/supportive father (39.71%). Children with supportive mothers and fathers had higher receptive language scores compared with those from other family groups, and had higher prosocial scores compared with children with activation mothers and activation fathers, but not other family groups (i.e., activation father/supportive mother or supportive father/activation mother). Results support activation relationship theory by noting a pattern of parenting behaviors used by fathers (and mothers) in which parents are moderately intrusive, challenging, or directive with their children, yet still sensitive and positive in their interactions.
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