Research has shown that fathers have a greater impact than mothers on their daughter’s ability to have academic and career success, deal with people in authority, try new things and accept challenges, express anger appropriately, have good mental health, have self-confidence and self-reliance and to create a loving, trusting relationship with a man.
Fathers influences their daughter’s lives in many profound ways – from how they feel about themselves and their perceived power to shape their own future; to what they expect from the world and especially what to expect from the men they will encounter in their lives.
A father’s influence on a daughter’s self-image
Dads teach their daughters how to regard themselves. It is through his eyes that daughters first see themselves. If he treats his daughter as being worthy, feminine and pretty, she is more likely to see herself that way. Likewise, if he treats her as being unworthy and unappealing, she is more likely to see herself that way, too. This type of treatment predisposes girls to suffer self-esteem problems later in life. It is through the father-daughter relationship that daughters first learn to both value and accept themselves, or to discount and reject themselves.
A dad’s involvement in his daughter’s life is a crucial ingredient in the development of a young woman’s self-esteem. “How Dad approaches life will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world,” says Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy.
Austin identifies positive elements of “common sense” parenting for dads so they can help support their daughter’s self-image and curb any possibility of low self-esteem: Verbal encouragement, being consistently present in her life, being alert and sensitive to her feelings, taking time to listen to her thoughts and taking an active interest in her hobbies. “It’s important to actually do these things, which can sometimes be quite challenging,” Austin adds. Direct involvement and encouragement by her father will help diminish a girl’s insecurity and increase her confidence in her own abilities.
Fathers and daughters: From infant to toddler
We now live in a world where Dad is an equal partner in care giving. From day one, dads need to be hands-on, changing diapers, giving baths, putting Baby to sleep and calming her cries. That presence and effort is the beginning of a very important relationship.
Fathers and daughters:From tween to teen
As a girl continues to grow and her teen years become fraught with complicated issues, dads should continue to work on building a trusting relationship, give affection and support her as she learns more about who she is and what kind of person she wants to become. A focus should be placed on cultivating a trusting relationship so daughters feel secure talking to their fathers about issues going on in their lives.
How dads influence their daughter’s relationship
Most psychologists predict that future romantic relationships will be greatly impacted by the father’s treatment of his daughter. If her father is warm, considerate and caring, she will most likely expect men to be warm, caring and nurturing. In romantic relationships, she is more likely to look for a partner that will treat her well. When there is appropriate physical touch between a father and his daughters, they learn to feel secure and relaxed. Daughters learn to be regarded as people and not as sex objects.
If a father is harsh, rejecting or dismissive, daughters will be predisposed to being involved in abusive relationships. When dads show their daughters respect and treat them with dignity, they learn to expect to be shown respect. Additionally, the way the father treats his wife serves as an example of what is acceptable in marriage.
Dads have a tendency to push the limits and push their children. When it is done with encouragement and patience, the children’s confidence grows and their limits are stretched. They are more willing to try new things and accept challenges. Without question, fathers are a powerful influence on both sons and daughters—an influence that reaches well beyond the roles of provider and protector. And as new studies emerge, it’s becoming clearer just how deeply the father-daughter relationship can affect a woman throughout her life in a variety of ways, including self-confidence, body image, education, career, and romantic relationships.