The Ohio State University researchers found that fathers did not perform as well as a parent to their 9-month-old child if they felt their partners were critical of their parenting skills six months earlier.
The study - done with relatively affluent, highly educated dual-earner couples - is the first to show how fathers' parenting quality might be affected by "maternal gatekeeping."
"The behaviours of mothers can shape how fathers interact with their children," said lead author Lauren Altenburger. "Mothers may not even be aware of how their criticisms of the father may end up negatively influencing how dads parent."
The results reflected the fact that, in our society, mothers still had the most power and influence when it came to raising children, said study co-author Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan.
The researchers used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study co-led by Schoppe-Sullivan that is investigating how dual-earner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time. In all, 182 couples, most of whom were married, participated in this study.
The results suggested moms should think twice before criticizing dads' parenting choices on minor issues such as what their baby will wear on a particular day, Altenburger said.
"It is about giving fathers the space to parent, too. Both parents need to keep communication open and not be so quick to criticize," she said.
The study appears online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. (ANI)