The difference between a loving father and an absent father makes a huge difference in how the child grows up. When fathers are absent, either physically or emotionally, their daughters are effected in many negative ways.
Child CareWomenFathers Conversations about the importance of fathers usually revolve around sons: But as recent research shows, fathers also affect the lives of their young adult daughters in intriguing and occasionally surprising ways.
As you might guess, daughters whose fathers have been actively engaged throughout childhood in promoting their academic or athletic achievements and encouraging their self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males.
Even college and professional female athletes often credit their fathers for helping them to become tenacious, self-disciplined, ambitious, and successful. Interestingly, too, when female college students were asked what they would do if their fathers disapproved of their career plans, the overwhelming majority said they would not change their plans.
But the daughters who communicated the most comfortably and had the closest relationships with their fathers were more willing to reconsider their plans if their fathers disapproved. Not surprisingly, a girl who has a secure, supportive, communicative relationship with her father is less likely to get pregnant as a teenager and less likely to become sexually active in her early teens.
This, in turn, leads to waiting longer to get married and to have children—largely because she is focused on achieving her educational goals first. The well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling.
As a consequence of having made wiser decisions in regard to sex and dating, these daughters generally have more satisfying, more long-lasting marriages. Their better relationships with men may also be related to the fact that well-fathered daughters are less likely to become clinically depressed or to develop eating disorders.
They are also less dissatisfied with their appearance and their body weight. As a consequence of having better emotional and mental health, these young women are more apt to have the kinds of skills and attitudes that lead to more fulfilling relationships with men.
For example, undergraduate women who did not have good relationships with their fathers had lower than normal cortisol levels. And people with low cortisol levels tend to be overly sensitive and overly reactive when confronted with stress. Indeed, the low cortisol daughters were more likely than the higher cortisol daughters who had the better relationships with their dads to describe their relationships with men in stressful terms of rejection, unpredictability or coercion.
Given the benefits a woman gains from communicating well with her father and feeling close to him, their relationship and communication matter a great deal. Yet both sons and daughters generally say they feel closer to their mothers and find it easier to talk to her, especially about anything personal.
Furthermore, daughters tend to withhold more personal information than sons do from their fathers. Compared to sons, daughters are also more uncomfortable arguing with their dads, and take longer to get over these disagreements than when they argue with their moms.
Most daughters also wish their fathers had talked with them more about sex and relationships, even though they admit that the conversations would probably have been uncomfortable at first. Considering the benefits of being able to talk comfortably with their fathers, these findings are discouraging.
So how can fathers and daughters forge a close, positive relationship? Some research suggests certain turning points or significant events can draw them closer. Both fathers and daughters said in one study that participating in activities together, especially athletic activities, while she was growing up made them closer.
Some daughters also mentioned working with their dads or vacationing alone with him. Many still seem to believe that daughters should spend the most time and share the most personal information with their mothers, but women miss out if they neglect the bond they have with their fathers.
And while fathers may find it easier to relate to and connect with their sons, they should make the effort to build a close relationship with their daughters, too.Linda Nielsen is a professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University and the author of Father-Daughter Relationships: Contemporary Research & Issues () and Between Fathers & Daughters: Enriching and Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship ().
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