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WSJ: Roughhousing – Fathers Teach Risk-Taking, Boundary-Setting;

WSJ:  There is no question among researchers that fathers who spend time with their children instill self-control and social skills in their offspring.

Rough-and-tumble play isn’t confined to fathers. “If a mom does it, the child will learn the same thing,” says Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of developmental psychology at New York University.

Mr. VanDijk’s wife Angie, a college administrator, often plays active superhero games with Liam. “Sometimes he needs quiet time, sometimes he needs scuffle time,” she says.

Fathers engage in more scuffle time on average, however. Using an adjustable carpeted ramp, researchers at New York University asked 34 parents to show how steep a slope they’d allow their babies to attempt. Some 62% of fathers said they would let their babies try a slope beyond their ability, compared with 56% of mothers, says the 2007 study co-authored by Dr. Tamis-LeMonda.

Many fathers walk a fine line during play between safety and risk, allowing children to get minor injuries without endangering them, says a 2011 study of 32 subjects in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Researchers say this can instill emotional intelligence under fire, and an ability to take prudent risks and set limits with peers.

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