Method. The China Family Panel Study is a large-scale, longitudinal cohort study of families in mainland China. For this study, fathers of a child ages three to six (n = 410) responded to questions regarding their reasons for having a child, including one utilitarian (“to help my family economically”), one emotional/psychological (“for the pleasure of watching them grow”), and one that is both utilitarian and emotional/psychological (“to strengthen connections with relatives”), with lower scores indicating stronger endorsement. Father-report on the cognitive stimulation scale measured fathers’ and other family members’ use of strategies such as, “How often do you/family members use a toy/game to help child distinguish shapes,” with higher scores indicating more frequent engagement. Finally, the child psychosocial adjustment scale was adapted from the Positive Behavior Scale (Quint, Bos, and Polit, 1997). An example item is, “Child can get over being upset quickly,” with lower scores indicating more positive functioning.
Results. In regression analyses, strongly endorsing one reason for child-bearing, to increase economic security, b = . 28, p < .01, and higher levels of caregiver cognitive stimulation, b = -. 24, p < .01, were significantly associated with more positive child psychosocial adjustment. In mediation analyses using the process macro for SPSS (Hayes, 2017) with 10,000 bootstraps, caregiver cognitive stimulation partially mediated the relationship between the economic security reason for child-bearing and child psychosocial functioning, indirect effect = -.30, Confidence Interval = -.66 to -.06.
Conclusions and Implications. This study highlights the importance of evaluating the usefulness of parenting beliefs with reference to the cultural values within which parenting is embedded. While utilitarian reasons for having children may not be deemed preferable in a Western context, in this study, conducted in China, such a reason was linked to more optimal parental engagement and child psychosocial functioning, which may be potentially related to the reason’s alignment with Chinese cultural values for social structure. Potential future directions for research include examination of the effect of other parenting behaviors exhibited by fathers, and the development of programs that teach fathers how to utilize developmentally appropriate methods for engaging their children.