Importance: Research on the characteristics of father–child play is limited, and how fathers perceive this experience and its contribution to children’s development and the parent–child relationship is insufficiently described.
Objective: To explore associations between fathers’ own playfulness, their supportiveness of child playfulness, and child playfulness and fathers’ perceptions of their joint play experiences.
Design: Convergent mixed-methods design.
Setting: Family homes.
Participants: The participants were 57 father–child dyads who resided in a metropolitan area. Children were ages 2 to 5 yr. Interviews with 11 fathers (ages 25–56 yr) were included in the qualitative analysis.
Outcomes and Measures: Fathers completed a background questionnaire and the Short Measure of Adult Playfulness (SMAP) and participated in a semistructured interview. Fifteen minutes of video-recorded joint play were scored using the Parent/Caregiver Support of Children’s Playfulness (PCSCP) and the Test of Playfulness (ToP).
Results: Fathers’ own playfulness as measured with the SMAP was not related to their child’s playfulness as measured with the ToP; however, their supportive behavior as measured with the PCSCP was associated with their child’s playfulness. Fathers recognized the benefits of joint play for their child’s development.
Conclusions and Relevance: The current findings help fill the gap in research linking fathers’ own playfulness and supportiveness during joint play and their child’s playfulness with fathers’ perceptions of this experience.
What This Article Adds: Understanding fathers’ perceptions and behaviors can further enhance service delivery to children and families through interprofessional work to benefit parent–child relationships as well as child development.