This research paper considers longer-term implications of involved parent for the continuing development of child. Involved parent is a good start toward healthy development. Research shifts the focus from the examination of parent-child interaction to the image of the parent-child relationship in the childs mind (Main, Kaplan, & Cassidy, 1985). There is proper evidence that involved parent is not only connected to greater compliance and reciprocity (Richters & Walters, 1991) but also to better peer relations, self-mastery, and sociability in the preschool years (Greenberg & Speltz, 1990).
The specific claims of parent involvement theory suggest the childs developing sense of self-confidence, effectiveness and self-worth, and aspects of intimate personal relationship (the capacity to be emotionally close, to want and receive care, and to give care to others). Thus, children with parent involvement histories have been found to be more positive, more responsive and less hostile with peers, and more cooperative with parents and so forth. Although the mother is usually the first attachment figure for the baby, many infants react just as much to their father, cooing and smiling and becoming excited at his approach.
Some infants become attached primarily to their fathers and thrive at least as well in their development as do infants with initial maternal attachments. Moreover, fathers who are supportive of mothers and are themselves involved parents make it more likely that the infant will develop a secure maternal attachment as well as a secure paternal attachment. By their second year most infants who are well fathered show approximately equal attachment to both parents. It is important to note that attachment is not an all-or-none phenomenon.
The style of the attachment and the details of the relationship vary with each parent and infant. Researchers have presented evidence that even newborns are capable of responding differentially toward their mother and father (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall 1995). The infant can become attached to any individual who is a consistent source of stimulation, attention and comfort, not just to the mother. If both parents are involved, an infant can develop a strong attachment to each of them. Despite such research findings, traditional conceptions of maternal primacy are difficult to change.
Involved parents tend to make even mundane activities like holding an infant or pushing a baby stroller. The pace and tempo of such activities tends to be faster and more varied for fathers than for mothers. Involved fathers are more likely to stimulate the infant to explore and to investigate new objects whereas mothers tend to engage their infants in relatively predictable activities. Infants who develop positive relationships with both their parents are likely to feel secure in exploring their environment in a relaxed manner and to enjoy being picked up by others (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall 1995).
In contrast, among insecure infants some may anxiously cling to their mothers while others seem to ignore them and to avoid eye contact. The quality of parenting that the infant receives certainly has important implications, but other factors including temperamental predispositions also play a major role in the social responsiveness of children to adults inside and outside of the family. Infants are not passive creatures just waiting to be fed or to have their diapers changed. They are active and striving, gradually increasing their self-motivated competence. Infants have a built-in motivation to explore and influence their environment.
During the first month or so, the infant seems to be using many prewired responses. The infant has the capacity for orientation with respect to various stimuli including light and sound. Moreover, researchers have found that even the newborn is capable of some basic patterns of social reciprocity and is usually showing variations in responsivity toward different people. Despite marked individual variations, newborns are clearly social beings who can actively learn from their experiences of interacting with their fathers as well as their mothers (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall 1995).
Psychologist Frank Pedersen and his colleagues found that several measures of infant competence were correlated with the degree to which five- and sixmonth-old babies were involved with their fathers (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall 1995). Frequent interaction with fathers was associated with more advanced functioning for sons. Although girls did not seem to be influenced by family structure, father-absent infant boys were also less cognitively competent than boys from father-present homes.
Fatherpresent infant boys demonstrated more social responsiveness and novelty-seeking behavior than those who were father-absent. Having found no differences in the behaviors of married and husbandless mothers, the researchers attributed variations in the infant boys behavior to the type of interaction they had with their fathers. Data collected by psychologist Jay Belsky (1987) indicates that both maternal and paternal involvement is important factor in the development of exploratory functions.
The most competent infants had fathers who participated in their physical care, expressed high levels of verbal responsiveness and affection and initiated vigorous motion play with them. Belsky stressed similarities as well as differences in the paternal and maternal factors that influenced infant behavior. In their efforts to encourage infant competence, mothers are generally more concerned with verbal-intellectual teaching, whereas fathers are more oriented toward active, arousing play and fostering autonomy and independence (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall 1995).
Research by pediatrician Michael Yogman (1984) and his colleagues supports the facilitative effect that active father participation may have on the developmental competence of infants. Yogman reported a significant relationship between a combined measure of father involvement during the prenatal and postnatal periods and the infants developmental functioning at nine months. In addition, he described a collaborative study done in Ireland that revealed a positive correlation between level of early father involvement and the cognitive maturity of year old infants.