Youths Age Gender and Parent Child Play

A consistent finding in research on samples of middle-income European American families indicates that playful and sociable activities such as physically stimulating rough-and-tumble play marks father-child interactions, whereas mother-child interactions are dominated by care-taking, holding, and soothing (Collins & Russell, 1991; Forehand & Nousiainen, 1993; Lindsey, Mize, & Petit, 1997; Parke, 1996). For example, when engaged in play, mothers were found to play nontactile games, or predictable and contained limb-movement games, such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake. Fathers engaged in more unpredictable, tactile, and arousing games. Infants were said to respond with more enthusiasm to being held by their fathers than by their mothers. Bernstein reported that fathers engaged in more physical play and interactive games, and encouraged visual, fine motor, and locomotor exploration more with sons than with daughters. Fathers' interactions with daughters were marked by verbal games and social conversation. On the other hand, in an early study of parent-child play interactions, Hoffman (1989) concluded that play may be related to parents' employment status, particularly that of mothers. According to Hoffman, studies have shown that employed mothers engaged in more actively stimulating play with their infants than did their husbands or nonemployed mothers.

However, Hewlett's (1987) study of parent-child relations in the Aka of central Africa demonstrates that the rough-and-tumble play observed in some Western studies is by no means a universal feature of father-child interactions. Utilizing naturalistic observations of father-child and mother-child interactions among the Aka, Hewlett found that Aka fathers did play frequently with their children. However, Aka fathers did not exhibit the vigorous rough-and-tumble play representative of American fathers. Moreover, Aka fathers also exhibited nurturing capacities and levels of emotional support similar to that of Aka mothers. Hewlett compared this finding with Swedish and German studies where father-child contact was marked less by vigorous play than by other forms of contact. Hewlett suggested that these findings demonstrate that play does not serve a critical role in influencing father-child attachment across cultures. Because Aka fathers and mothers had similar styles of interaction with children, he hypothesized that Aka fathers were more intimate and therefore more aware of their children's needs, and subsequently did not need to utilize rough-and-tumble play to form attachments.

As demonstrated by Hewlett and Hoffman, fathers' and mothers' behaviors vary according to social and cultural circumstances. The next section examines social, cultural, psychological, ethnic, economic, environmental, genetic, biological, and evolutionary antecedents of maternal and paternal practices, and the consequences for male and female offspring of these practices.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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