Comparing fathers’ physical and toy play and links to child behaviour: An exploratory study.


Increasing amounts of research show that fathers’ involvement in children’s lives contributes to the child’s social, emotional and cognitive development; however, much of the evidence comes from fathers’ caregiving and object play. This exploratory study compared the characteristics of 24 Australian fathers’ play in two contexts-toy play and physical play-and examined the association of these play contexts with children’s development. Correlational analyses revealed few conceptual similarities between toy play and physical play (rough-and-tumble). Rough-and-tumble quality was associated with children’s emotional and behavioural functioning and self-regulation, while intrusiveness in toy play related only to self-regulation. The findings are discussed in terms of widening the conceptual and methodological reach of fathering measures in order to better capture the range of fathers’ parenting behaviours and to be able to determine mechanisms of influence.