ESRI Research Series

Fathers and children from infancy to middle childhood

This report has been peer reviewed prior to publication. The authors are solely responsible for the content and the views expressed.

November 8, 2021
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The influence of fathers on child experiences and outcomes has been given much less attention in international and Irish research than the influence of mothers (Fitzgerald et al., 2020). The Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study has collected very detailed information from fathers throughout the different waves of the study which can be used to address this gap. This report uses data on the younger GUI cohort, Cohort ‘08, who were born in 2008 and were nine years of age in 2017. It documents the nature of father-child interaction and the quality of father-child relationships from infancy (nine months) to middle childhood (nine years). Analyses relate to the 4,090 cases where fathers and mothers were both living with the child and where fathers completed the survey at all full waves.1 However, additional analyses are included on the quality of the relationship between children and their non-resident fathers, as reported by the children at nine years. Case numbers did not permit an analysis of households with lone fathers or same-sex couples.  

The report draws on four waves of Cohort ‘08 data collected from fathers, mothers and (at age nine) children, when the child was nine months, three years, five years and nine years, to address the following research questions: 

1.    What activities do fathers engage in with their children from nine months to nine years? How does this vary by fathers’ characteristics (such as education, employment status, income, social class and take-up of parental leave) and child characteristics (gender, illness/disability)?
2.    What is the quality of relationship between fathers and children, as reported by fathers and (at age nine) children?
3.    What factors are associated with parental stress among fathers from infancy to middle childhood?
4.    What is the relationship between the nature of the father-child relationship (activities, relationship quality and parental stress) and selected child outcomes: namely, cognitive development, physical activity and wellbeing?