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27-03-2021 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2021

Journal of Child and Family Studies 5/2021

Quality and Quantity: A Study of Father–Toddler Rough-and-Tumble Play

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 5/2021
Jennifer M. StGeorge, Linda E. Campbell, Taylor Hadlow, Emily E. Freeman
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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Parent–child interactions are critical for a child’s overall wellbeing and growth, however there are differences in the types of interactions that mothers and fathers engage in. For example, fathers often utilize physical play, such as Rough-and-Tumble Play (RTP), to interact and bond with their child. Father-child RTP appears to contribute to a range of child outcomes, including social, emotional cognitive and behaviour development. Given the now robust evidence for these benefits of father–child play and RTP specifically, there is a need for a more complete understanding of the factors that contribute to the quality of fathers’ RTP. This study examined the association between quality of father–toddler RTP and a range of paternal characteristics, parenting factors, child demographics and child developmental domains. The study included 64 sets of parents (mothers and fathers) and their toddler (age 18–24 months). Parent-reported questionnaires (demographic information, frequency of father–toddler RTP, father parenting stress, and child social-emotional development) were collected, observations of child developmental attainment (Bayley-III) completed and father–toddler RTP play interactions were rated for quality. We found that RTP for fathers who engaged in more father–toddler RTP, whose children were older and more socially-emotionally mature, was rated as higher quality in their RTP. By demonstrating links of RTP quality with both parenting behaviour and child development, this study contributes to a more complete understanding of the nature and context of father–child interactions. Father–child physical play, including RTP, may present an opportunity for professionals to bring fathers into their work with families.

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