Comparing Mother and Child Functioning among Preschoolers Attending Head Start and Private Preschools: The Importance of Father Involvement

Primary Author: Robyn Herbert

Faculty Sponsor: Tammy Barry


Primary College/Unit: Arts and Sciences

Category: Physical and Social Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Principal Topic

Fathers are more involved with their children compared to previous generations, making habits as parents important to family involvement research (e.g., Opondo et al., 2016). Research has demonstrated that increased levels of father involvement have been related to beneficial outcomes for children including academic achievement (e.g., Jeynes, 2015). Father involvement may be particularly important for families with a socioeconomic disadvantage (Atzaba-Poria et al., 2004). The current study examined mother and family variables as they relate to child behaviors, whether these variables differ due to Head Start status or family structure, and how these variables relate to spousal stress in two caregiver homes.



Participants included 130 children and their mothers. Participants were recruited from Head Start centers and private preschools. Mothers completed the study questionnaires; children were tested at Head Start or their preschool.



Results indicated children with a father in the home had higher cognitive functioning and their mothers used fewer negative parenting practices. Results also indicated that children who attend Head Start were more likely to have an absent father; however, if a father was present, mothers of children in Head Start experienced significantly lower levels of spouse/partner stress. The current study adds to previous research demonstrating that increased father involvement can benefit children and mothers. These results highlight points of intervention for children in Head Start, who may otherwise experience health and academic inequity. Results may inform family-based interventions in which mothers’ mental health is targeted in an effort to reduce negative parenting practices.