Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Sara Haden

Committee Chair and Members

Sara Haden, Chair

Amiya Waldman-Levi

Benjamin Saunders


Child development, Father-child play, Father-son play, Fatherhood, Parent-child play, Traditional masculinity


There are limited studies exploring the benefits of father-son play and child development, and none to date have included traditional masculinity ideologies (Vallotton et al., 2020). To better inform clinical interventions for sons and their families, this study explored the relationship between paternal traditional masculinity ideology and father-son joint play interactions, and their impact on child playfulness and adjustment. Grounded in traditional masculinity ideology theory, attachment theory, and social learning theory, the study involved 86 father-son dyads with sons aged 4-8 years from the United States. Fathers completed self-report measures and father-son play interactions were observed and coded. Results showed that the sample endorsed significantly lower levels of traditional masculinity ideology compared to published norms, and no significant associations were found between paternal masculinity ideology and father-son play variables or child adjustment. Fathers' support of child playfulness had a significant positive direct effect on child playfulness. Asian/Pacific Islander fathers (n = 12) reported significantly higher levels of child adjustment difficulties compared to other racial/ethnic groups, highlighting the importance of considering cultural factors in father-child research. Limitations include the cross-sectional design and homogeneous sample in terms of education level. Future research should employ larger, diverse samples, and longitudinal designs, and explore potential moderators and contextual factors. This study contributes to the understanding of fatherhood by examining the role of masculinity ideology in father-son play interactions and emphasizing the importance of fathers' supportive play behaviors for fostering child playfulness. The findings have implications for clinical practice, suggesting that intervention efforts should focus on enhancing specific parenting capacities to support father-child play and child development.

Included in

Psychology Commons