Objective: The purpose of this study was (1) to examine the association between fathers' alcoholism and children's effortful control and (2) to examine the role of parental warmth and toddler temperament as mediators or moderators of this relationship. Method: Families were recruited through New York State birth records when their infant was age 12 months. The final sample consisted of 226 families (116 boys) constituting two major groups: a nonalcoholic group consisting of parents with no or few current alcohol problems (n = 102) and a father alcoholic group (n = 124). Families were assessed when their child was ages 12, 18, 24 and 36 months. Results: Results indicate that boys of alcoholic fathers exhibit lower overall levels of effortful control than boys of nonalcoholic fathers. For boys, fathers' warmth over the second year of life mediated the association between fathers' alcoholism and effortful control. Maternal warmth was a unique predictor of effortful control for boys. For girls, fathers' alcoholism was associated with lower paternal warmth, which was in turn a significant predictor of effortful control. Child activity level and negative affect were associated with effortful control for boys but did not account for significant variance when entered in regression models with fathers' alcoholism and parenting variables. Conclusions: Sons of alcoholic fathers are at an increased risk of problems in self-regulation when they are ages 2 to 3 years. Paternal warmth mediates the association between fathers' alcoholism and self-regulation for both boys and girls, although the nature of mediation may vary by child gender.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)