Abstract

Objective. The purpose of this pilot study was to gather preliminary data on father–infant dyads using the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training (NCAST) Teaching scale, a parent–infant interaction measure, to determine whether and how fathers score differently than mothers from normative samples.

Method. Interactions between first-time fathers (N = 15) and their infants, 3 months to 6 months of age, during the instruction of an unfamiliar play activity were rated using the NCAST Teaching scale. Scores were compared both with a normative database (N = 2,123) of mother–infant dyads and with a subsample (n = 34) of the normative database to control for demographic variables, including the age, gender, and birth parity of the child and the age, education, marital status, and ethnicity of the parent.

Results. The fathers scored significantly lower on items related to fostering the infants’ cognitive growth than the mothers in the normative database. However, the infants in this study provided clearer behavioral cues and were more responsive to their fathers than the infants in the normative sample. These findings were also true for the subsample comparison. The fathers also scored significantly lower than the normative subsample on items measuring their ability to foster the social and emotional growth of their infants.

Conclusion. There may be important differences in the interactions of father–infant dyads compared with mother–infant dyads, but further research with a larger, more representative sample of fathers on this parent–infant interaction measure is warranted to support this. The development of normative scores for fathers and their infants is recommended to accurately interpret father–infant interactions when administering the NCAST Teaching scale.

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