SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Topic: Quality of Mother-Child and Father-Child Play and Children’s Social Development
Session: Parental Playfulness: The Key for Children’s Positive Development?
Authors : Kelsey Garcia, Natasha Cabrera, Mirjana Majdandzic, Stephanie Reich
Abstract: Engaging in positive and fun play with parents is beneficial for the development of social skills. Studies show that different types of play can help children become socially adjusted. Pretend play gives children the opportunity to learn to regulate their emotions (Lillard, et al., 2013); whereas play that is physically and mentally activating (i.e., challenging parenting behavior: CPB) has been found to reduce children’s social anxiety (Majdandžić et al., 2014). Yet, there may be differences in the way mothers and fathers play behaviors affect children’s development. A study of low-income ethnically diverse families in the U.S. found that while both parents were equally playful (i.e., engaged in play that was imaginative and creative), only maternal playfulness predicted children’s emotion regulation (Cabrera et al., 2017). A study of middle-class Dutch families found that fathers’ CPB reduced social anxiety in children while mothers’ CPB increased it (Majdandžić et al., 2014). These findings suggest that more research is needed to understand the types of play performed by mothers and fathers that promote social adjustment. We address this gap with a sample of low-income mothers and fathers and their infants in the U.S.
We hypothesized that: 1) mothers and fathers display similar levels of CPB and playfulness with their children; and 2) both mothers’ and fathers’ CPB and playfulness predict children’s social skills, though the strength and direction of this effect may differ.
This study uses data from an ongoing longitudinal evaluation of a parenting intervention designed for first-time, low-income parents with 9-month-old infants. The sample consists predominately of ethnic minority and immigrant families.
In-home observations of 10-minutes of free play are conducted for mother-child and father-child interactions when children are 9 months of age. Observations are coded for parent playfulness (Atzaba-Poria, Cabrera, & Menashe, 2014), verbal and physical CPB (Majdandžić et al., 2015), and sensitivity (Cox & Crnic, 2003). Children’s social development is measured at 12-months using the BITSEA: (Briggs-Gowan & Carter, 2002). Data collection is ongoing with an anticipated final sample of 200 families.
Preliminary results are based on 21 families for which coded observations of playfulness and outcome data are currently available (Table 2). Initial analyses show that mothers (M = 2.57, SD = 1.02) and fathers (M = 2.67, SD = .86) engage in similar amounts of playfulness (t(20) = -1.31, p = .195). Further analyses will be conducted predicting children’s social development from maternal and paternal playfulness and CPB, controlling for sensitivity.
Results from this study further explain the ways in which play matters for children’s social development. These results will also clarify the differential effects of mothers’ and fathers’ play on children’s social development, for two key types of play. Such results should inform efforts to promote children’s social development by highlighting the ways in which parents can positively engage with their children, particularly in low-income families.