Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Angela Stone-MacDonald

Second Advisor

Serra Acar

Third Advisor

Songtian Zeng


Early childhood literature is filled with examinations of how mothers—and sometimes fathers—engage in parenting. However, what is consistently absent from the literature is how mothers and fathers together within a family system influence children’s development. When parenting occurs, there is a give and take between parental figures. How the interpersonal relationship between parents influences each other while at the same time impacts their child’s development is an understudied—if not unstudied—phenomenon. This dissertation addresses that gap within the literature so both policy and practice can find interventions to better target parental pathways influencing children’s development. Drawing from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing dataset (2011), this dissertation examines three research questions using path analysis to model family systems: 1) To what effect does Paternal Engagement mediate Father – Relationship Support on Mother-Child Activities? 2) What pathways between the Father- and Mother – Relationship Support and Maternal and Paternal Encouragement affect parent-child activity? 3) What pathways between the Father- and Mother – Relationship Support and Maternal and Paternal Encouragement affect parent-child activities relating to children's language development and behavior within the family system? Multiple theoretical models are used and evaluated for both their fit to the data as well as the fit to empirical evidence and theoretical models of parenting. Analysis of the systemic parenting models imply a significant relationship between father (ß = 0.17, p < 0.001) and mother (ß = 0.18, p < 0.001) reports of how supportive their partner is within the parent-parent relationship and their own activity level with their child. Encouragement to engage more with their child had no effect on the overall parent-child activity level. A significant relationship between mother-child activities and PPVT scores (ß = 0.13, p < 0.001) was found. Post hoc analysis implied multiple measurement issues within and between constructs limiting the overall predictive nature of the models. Critical analysis of the measurement issues found within the models, as well as next steps for model development, are examined.


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