The focus of this study is on changes in the strength of relations among four types of paternal behaviors (supportive presence, respect for autonomy, stimulation, and hostility) from early childhood through middle childhood. Design. Father-child interaction was observed for 718 dyads at four time periods: 54 months (M = 56 months), 1st grade (M = 7.0 years), 3rd grade (M = 9.0 years), and 5th grade (M = 11.0 years) using similar and age-appropriate observational paradigms. The association between paternal supportive presence and respect for autonomy grew stronger with age. Supportive presence showed a moderate relation with stimulation at 54 months; but this association became weaker over time. A similar pattern of weakening association emerged in the relation between respect for autonomy and stimulation. Both supportive presence and respect for autonomy showed a continuing robust negative association with hostility. Finally, the relation between hostility and stimulation became stronger over time. There appears to be an evolving dialectic in the organization of paternal behavior during interactions with offspring, with some relations strengthening and others becoming weaker. Critically, the bonds fathers have with their children in early childhood tend to remain firm through middle childhood, with paternal support less often reflecting itself in directly teaching a child but more often in showing respect for the child’s growing independence.
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