Relations Between Fathers' and Mothers' Infant Engagement Patterns in Dual-Earner Families and Toddler Competence

Sarah N. Lang, Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan, Letitia E. Kotila, Xin Feng, Claire M. Kamp Dush, Susan C. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This study examined the trajectories of time new fathers and mothers in dual-earner families (N = 178) reported spending in developmentally appropriate positive engagement activities over the first 9 months of their child's life on both work and nonworkdays. We also explored how paternal and maternal engagement patterns in infancy were associated with children's later social-emotional competence during toddlerhood (M = 25 months). Using latent growth models, we found that compared with mothers, fathers spent significantly less time engaging with their infants; however, both parents increased their engagement over time at relatively the same rate. Fathers' rate of increase over time and mothers' initial starting point of engagement on nonworkdays were associated with toddlers' attention and mastery motivation. Findings are discussed with regard to what they mean for dual-earner couples and fathers' investment in their offspring, highlighting what they may imply about the second demographic transition and family functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1127
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The New Parents Project was funded by the National Science Foundation (CAREER 0746548, Schoppe-Sullivan), with additional support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD 1K01HD056238, Kamp Dush) and The Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research (NICHD R24HD058484) and program in Human Development and Family Science.


  • dual-earner families
  • father engagement
  • social-emotional competence
  • time diaries
  • transition to parenthood


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