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This paper is an article critique of a sociology journal written by Cabrera, Shannon & Tamis-LeMonda (2007). The article explores the influence of fathers on children’s cognitive and emotional development. Cabrera et al. (2007) specifically concentrated on exploring this relationship by focusing on the emotional and cognitive development of toddlers and pre-kindergarten children.
This study exposed three main objectives – to establish how resident fathers interacted with their children (toddlers), to find out how financial and human capabilities of fathers affect the quality of their relationship with their children, and to explore how spousal relationships affect the quality of parent engagement with their children. Lastly, the paper also strived to establish how the presence and support of fathers affected their children’s cognitive and emotional development.
In their study, Cabrera et al. (2007) say that most children who receive support from their fathers tend to have better emotional and cognitive development than those who do not receive this support. Here, a key interest for Cabrera et al. (2007) is the positive effect of fathers on their children’s language development and emotion regulation. The researchers said, compared to mothers, fathers had a better effect on helping their children to regulate their emotions, while mothers had a negative influence in this regard (Cabrera et al., 2007).
Comparatively, the study also found out that most fathers had a negative effect on their children’s language development, at pre-kindergarten stage. The same influence was however neutral for the regulation of social and emotional skills. Cabrera et al. (2007) formulated the above findings through the adoption of the “Dynamics of Paternal Influences on Children over the Life Course model” (Cabrera et al., 2007, p. 209).
This model was highly appropriate for the researchers because it outlined how parental characteristics affected the emotional and cognitive development of children. In sum, Cabrera et al. (2007) emphasized the importance of fathers’ supportive influence on children’s development.
Relevance of the Article to Family Formation
Family formation is a very broad issue that transcends the traditional conception of the idea (concerning how people live together as one). At the heart of family formation is the role of children in the family. Children therefore emerge as important people in the formation of families. Indeed, as MYM (2013) reports, most people see families as incomplete social units, if they do not have children.
Certainly, children guarantee the future existence of humanity because they comprise future generations and new ways of thinking in human psychology. Therefore, even as individualism gains credence as an acceptable social philosophy (Cherlin, 2013), it is important to understand humanity beyond the existence of parents. People can therefore only understand the future of humanity through children because children bring new meaning to family life.
The article by Cabrera et al. (2007) is important in the understanding of family formations because it highlights the importance of the father as part of the entire ecosystem that affects family formation. Since fathers are a critical part of the family ecosystem, their contributions to the growth and development of toddlers and pre-kindergarten children highlight a small part of this analysis because the emotional and cognitive developments of children are bound to affect the overall health of the family.
In other words, as supported by the findings of Cabrera et al. (2007), the influence and support of fathers in their children’s development improves the cognitive and emotional development of children, thereby improving the overall well-being of the family. This is because emotionally vibrant children are more likely to develop and become socially healthy people (Cabrera et al., 2007). Comprehensively, the positive influence of fathers on children development highlights the role of healthy children in family formation.
Relation to Other Researchers
Cherlin (1995) has investigated the role of fathers in their children’s well-being by analyzing the impact of parental divorce on the demographic outcomes of young adults. In his analysis, Cherlin (1995) established that most children who enjoyed the attention of both parents tend to report positive emotional and cognitive growth, thereby leading to positive demographic outcomes as well.
Comparatively, Cherlin (1995) says, children who grow up in “broken” families often show signs of dysfunctional emotional and cognitive development, especially in their early years as adults. The findings of Cherlin (1995) compare to the findings of Cabrera et al. (2007) because both sets of authors investigate the role of parents in their children’s well-being.
Moreover, both sets of authors investigate the role of parents in the emotional and cognitive development of their children. While Cabrera et al. (2007) focus on the role of the fathers in the well-being of their children, Cherlin (1995) focuses on the role of both parents in the cognitive and emotional development of their children. Both studies can however be easily pooled to explain how parents affect the cognitive and emotional development of their children.
Although Cabrera et al. (2007) investigate the influence of parental involvement in early childhood development (especially when children are between the toddler and pre-kindergarten stages); Cherlin (1995) explains the role of parental involvement in early adulthood.
By combining the focus of both sets of authors, it is correct to say their contributions are informative in the study of early childhood development. Moreover, both sets of authors largely underscore family formation outcomes, especially through the understanding of emotional and cognitive development.
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The findings of Cabrera et al. (2007) do not only relate to the work of Cherlin (1995) because they also outline a very close relation to the works of Meezan & Rauch (2005) who investigate the well-being of children in heterosexual marriages and same-sex marriages. In their study, Meezan & Rauch (2005) say children who grow up in families where parents are of the same sex, do not develop differently from children who grow up in families headed by heterosexual parents.
The main point advanced by Meezan & Rauch (2005) is the lack of significant differences in emotional and cognitive outcomes for children raised by heterosexual parents and children raised by same-sex parents. The article therefore established that same-sex parents almost had the same positive parental impact that heterosexual parents do.
Like Cabrera et al. (2007) and Cherlin (1995), studies by Meezan and Rauch (2005) also focus on the emotional and cognitive development of children. The only difference between the studies of Meezan and Rauch (2005) and Cabrera et al. (2007) is the emphasis on same-sex parenting, as opposed to heterosexual parenting.
Nonetheless, the findings of the three sets of authors focus on family development, through the analysis on children’s well-being. An analysis of these interrelated studies highlights childhood development as an important sociological discipline.
Even though the researchers described above highlight the importance of understanding childhood development and the impact of parental relationships in this analysis, their focus on this topic also highlights the complexities that are involved in human development and the psychosocial processes that affect our cognitive and emotional well-being.
Interestingly, the focus on childhood development also helps to shed light on some commonly misconceived social issues affecting modern families today (like the quality of parental support that same-sex marriages would offer children). Their findings therefore provide a holistic understanding of childhood development and the formation, or re-formation, of families in this regard (Cherlin, 2013).
Childhood development manifests as the focus of this paper. The emotional and cognitive development processes of children especially manifest as a core interest in the study of Cabrera et al. (2007). The authors propose that most programs that aim to support the contribution of fathers in childhood development processes are likely to have a positive impact on family formation, as they guarantee the positive cognitive and emotional well-being of children (Cabrera et al., 2007).
These findings highlight the works of other researchers who have stressed the role of fathers in improving the emotional and cognitive outcomes of children (Naz, 2010; Madsen, 2007). Future studies should however strive to determine how the role of fathers in childhood development position within the larger continuum of human development.
Stated differently, future studies should address how the role of parents fits in the wider ecology of human development. In such analyses, future studies should also address how parental involvement fits within the ecological systems theory because the ecological systems theory contains crucial tenets of human development, such as the roles, norms, and rules of childhood development (Barrera, 2008).
Barrera, I. (2008). An Ecological Systems Theory Approach in Looking at Mental Health Care Barriers in the Latino Community. New York, US: ProQuest.
Cabrera, N., Shannon, J., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2007). Fathers’ Influence on their Children’s Cognitive and Emotional Development: From Toddlers to Pre-K. Applied Development Science, 11(4), 208-213.
Cherlin, A. (1995). Parental Divorce in Childhood and Demographic Outcomes in Young Adulthood. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University.
Cherlin, A. (2013). Public and Private Families: An Introduction. New York, US: McGraw-Hill.
Madsen, S. (2007). Developing leadership: exploring childhoods of women university presidents. Journal of Educational Administration, 45(1), 99 – 118.
Meezan, W., & Rauch J. (2005). Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America’s Children. Future Child, 15(2), 97-115.
MYM. (2013). Importance of A Child in the Family. Web.
Naz, G. (2010). Usage of parental leave by fathers in Norway. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 30(5), 313 – 325.