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Cabrera on Mothers’ and Fathers’ Playfulness

Playfulness is associated with children's emotion regulation and vocabulary skills

Faculty Associate Natasha Cabrera points out that play has been consistently studied as a developmental context for children’s development. Previous research has shown the association of play and milestones during early childhood in language and self-regulation. This paper explores the longitudinal association between mothers’ and fathers’ playfulness with toddlers, toddler’s effect during play, and children’s language and emotion regulation at Prekindergarten. Data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP) was used. The sample consisted of 73 children and their mothers and fathers. Toddlers were predominantly African American and Latino. The results show that mothers’ playfulness was associated with children’s emotion regulation and father’ playfulness was associated with children’s vocabulary and emotion regulation. Thus, the findings also show that fathers and mothers are equally playful, creative, and fun when interacting with their children. However, father’s playfulness is susceptible to contextual factors such as marital conflict. In conclusion, the findings suggest that playfulness is a fundamental source of variation in vocabulary and emotional regulation of children raised in low-income families.

Cabrera, N., et al. 2018. "The Magic of Play: Low-Income Mothers’ and Fathers’ Playfulness and Children’s Emotion Regulation and Vocabulary Skills”. Infant Mental Health Journal 38(6): 757-771;