Maternal Gatekeeping, Coparenting Quality, and Fathering Behavior in Families With Infants

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The present study examined the role of maternal gatekeeping behavior in relation to fathers' relative involvement and competence in child care in 97 families with infant children. Parents' beliefs about fathers' roles were assessed prior to their infant's birth. Parents' perceptions of maternal gatekeeping behavior (encouragement and criticism) and coparenting relationship quality were assessed at 3.5 months postpartum. The authors assessed fathers' relative involvement and competence in child care using a combination of parent report and observational measures. Results suggest that even after accounting for parents' beliefs about the paternal role and the overall quality of the coparenting relationship, greater maternal encouragement was associated with higher parent-reported relative father involvement. Moreover, maternal encouragement mediated the association between coparenting quality and reported relative father involvement. With respect to fathers' observed behavior, fathers' beliefs and parents' perceptions of coparenting relationship quality were relevant only when mothers engaged in low levels of criticism and high levels of encouragement, respectively. These findings are consistent with the notion that mothers may shape father involvement through their roles as “gatekeepers.”

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