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Child development knowledge and father engagement: The mediating role of parenting self-efficacy

APA Citation:

Connor, L. A., & Stolz, H. E. (2022). Child development knowledge and father engagement: The mediating role of parenting self-efficacy. Journal of Family Issues, 43(3), 831–851. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X21994628

Abstract Created by REACH:

Social learning theory suggests that parents’ behavior is driven by their knowledge and self-efficacy. Using this lens, the current study examined how 181 civilian fathers’ self-perceived and objective knowledge of child development related to how they engaged with their infant (i.e., frequency of physical play, caregiving, and verbal stimulation). The fathers’ parenting self-efficacy was also investigated as a possible link between knowledge of child development and engagement with their infant. Overall, fathers with more self-perceived knowledge of child development tended to engage with their infants more frequently, but self-efficacy did not explain this association.



Subject Affiliation:



Infancy (2 - 23 mo)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Secondary Analysis
Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Connor, Lisa A., Stolz, Heidi E.


Early father engagement is associated with numerous positive child outcomes including cognitive development, emotional regulation, and fewer problem behaviors. Various fathering programs attempt to encourage father engagement through teaching fathers about young children?s development and needs. This study examined 181 low-income fathers? child development knowledge (self-perceived and objective) as predictors of father engagement (verbal stimulation, caregiving, and physical play) with infants. Additionally, parenting self-efficacy (PSE) was examined as a mediator. Results revealed that fathers? self-perceived child development knowledge positively predicted engagement with infants (verbal stimulation and caregiving), but objective knowledge did not. PSE did not mediate the relationship between self-perceived knowledge and father engagement. These findings yield important implications for fathering research and interventions, suggesting that it may be particularly beneficial to increase fathers? confidence in their ability to understand and meet their child?s needs rather than exclusively focusing on improving fathers? knowledge of child development.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


father engagement, child outcomes, low-income

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  June 2023

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