Infant characteristics and parental engagement at the transition to parenthood

Letitia E. Kotila, Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan, Claire M. Kamp Dush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Positive engagement activities support children's adaptive development and new parents are encouraged to be highly engaged with infants. Yet, fathers' engagement is widely understudied and maternal engagement quantity is frequently overlooked. Our study contributes to growing knowledge on associations between infant temperament and parental engagement by testing transactional and moderation models in a recent sample of first-time parents when infants were 3, 6, and 9 months old. Stringent longitudinal, reciprocal structural equation models partially confirmed an engagement "benefit". Mothers' engagement marginally contributed to their children's gains in effortful control from 3 to 6 months regardless of child gender. Further, mothers' engagement reduced infant negative affect from 6 to 9 months regardless of child gender. Mothers' ratings of infant negative affect were gendered; mothers' ratings of infant negative affect increases more from 3 to 6 months for boys. Fathers' engagement was contextually sensitive; child gender moderated the link between negative affect and engagement from 6 to 9 months, such that fathers became more engaged with boys whom they rated higher on negative affect; there was no effect for daughters. Finally, we found that effortful control moderated associations between negative affect and maternal engagement; mothers' engagement increases from 3 to 6 months were greater for children initially rated lower in effortful control. Implications for future research and parenting education and support services are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-799
Number of pages13
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The New Parents Project was funded by the National Science Foundation (CAREER 0746548 , Schoppe-Sullivan), with additional support from the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD 1K01DF056238 , Kamp Dush) and The Ohio State University's Institute for Population Research (NICHD R24HD058484 ) and program in Human Development and Family Science.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Effortful control
  • Engagement
  • Negative affect
  • Temperament
  • Transactional


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