Sixty families with their eldest child, aged 3 or 4 years, participated in this study of parent-child interactions and the development of social competency. Mother-child and father-child dyads were observed for 10 minutes each, completing either a gross motor or fine motor semi-structured laboratory construction task. Parental directiveness and scaffolding were coded and measures of child temperament, child receptive language, and child social competency in preschool were obtained. As expected, fathers exhibited more directiveness and mothers exhibited more scaffolding in their speech with their children. The predictor variables of child gender, age, language ability, attentional focus, inhibitory control and parental education level did not significantly contribute to directiveness or scaffolding with the exception that child language significantly predicted maternal directiveness and child gender significantly predicted paternal directiveness. Paternal directiveness positively predicted a child’s teacher-rated social competency. Contrary to expectations, maternal scaffolding negatively predicted a child’s teacher-rated social competency. These findings are discussed in terms of fathers’ potentially unique role in fostering a child’s social development.
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