The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not father involvement in child care has an effect on preschool behavior. Data were provided by a kindergarten readiness study conducted by the Primary Mental Health Project (PMHP) in Rochester, New York. Participants voluntarily completed background questionnaires including an item regarding the degree of father involvement in care of the children. A randomly-selected sample of 121 four- and five-year-old urban preschool children (61 males, 60 females) with low to high father involvement were rated on five behaviors and five social competencies by their teachers using the Teacher-Child Rating Scale, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales Classroom Edition (Socialization Domain), and the Kohn Social Competence Scale. The majority of families in the PMHP study were African American, with low household incomes. Results suggested an interaction effect between father involvement and mother education for assertive social skills and peer social skills only. For children whose mothers had greater than 12 years of schooling, father involvement had a positive effect on assertiveness and peer social skills. For children whose mothers had less than 12 years of schooling, father involvement negatively affected assertiveness skills. Father involvement did not positively or negatively affect any other behaviors or social competencies measured. The results of this study suggest that, within an urban, low-income population, father involvement may not affect the development of positive behaviors and social competencies of preschoolers with low maternal education, and, in fact, may have a negative effect on their assertiveness skills. For children in this population whose mothers are better-educated, father involvement may lead to increased assertiveness and peer social skills, but does not appear to affect other behaviors. Although these results differ from many previous father involvement research findings, they support previous studies finding father involvement to have different effects for different populations, and to be relatively ineffective in shielding children from the effects of poverty.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Father and child; Preschool children--Family relationships; Preschool children--Education--Family participation; Behavioral assessment of children; Child development

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Department of Psychology (CLA)


Marshall, P.


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