In a prospective, longitudinal investigation we examined fathers' engagement in learning activities with their children in early childhood in relation to children academic performance in 5th grade. Participants were 602 low-income, ethnically diverse biological fathers and their children from the National Early Head Start evaluation study. Fathers reported on their engagement with children in learning activities as well as their residency when children were two years, three years, and of preschool age; children were assessed on receptive language, reading and math skills in 5th grade. Children also reported on the quality of their relationship with one to two caregivers of their choice in 5th grade; 62% of children chose to report on their biological father and an additional 16% of children reported on a father figure. Mothers reported on biological father residency when children were in 5th grade. Fathers' engagement with children in learning activities predicted children's 5th grade academic performance after controlling for early and later father residency and children's report of the quality of their relationship with fathers or father figures. Children who reported positive relationships with either fathers or father figures in 5th grade also scored higher on various performance indicators of academic achievement. In contrast, father residency did not predict children's performance or moderate the influence of early engagement on children's performance. Fathers' participation in learning activities with young children has long-lasting associations with children's academic achievement. (Author abstract)
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