Father Daughter relationship

“The father-daughter bond is a prototype for male-female relationships for the daughter and offers positive mental health and self-esteem to the father,” says Frederick B. Phillips, Ph.D., founder of the Progressive Life Center in Washington, D.C., which offers an array of psychological services. “Within the framework of this relationship, the daughter has the opportunity to develop here womanliness, as contrasted with male energy. She can test out her female energy in a safe, nonsexual relationship. Fathers can realize stronger and truer self-esteem by receiving pure love, not to be confused with sexuality.”

Test: What kind of father daughter relationship do you have?

“There are men who lack the income to support their children, but they can sit down and talk to their daughters,” she says. “And a father isn’t just one who provides basic needs. The best fathers reinforce the idea that their girl’s femaleness is charming and positive, that things about her as a female are special.”,says Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., a psychologist who is a professor at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, and who specializes in male-female relationships in her private practice.

Psychologist Wyatt comments, “When a father praises his daughter for her strengths and exposes her to the working world, it says to the daughter that a man sees her as a peer, as capable. That kind of approval from a father is very important for a girl.”

In her book “Embracing Your Father: How to Build the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted with Your Dad,” Professor of Education and Women’s and Gender Studies Linda Nielsen offers practical advice for adult daughters to develop closer ties to their fathers.

Ages 14 to 18 are often the most uncomfortable times, Nielsen said. Divorce and remarriage can present even more hurdles for the father-daughter relationship. Learning more about their fathers — their histories and why they made certain choices — can help daughters reconnect with their fathers.

“No matter how old you and your father are now, getting to know each other on a more personal, more emotionally intimate level will deepen your bond,” Nielsen said. “For example, have your dad choose 10 pictures of himself throughout different periods of his life. Then spend several hours alone with him looking them over and encouraging him to tell you stories about his life.”

HERE ARE some unhealthy father-daughter patterns from the book “The Father-Daughter Dance,” by Joan Minninger:

Lost Father and Yearning Daughter. The father abandons the daughter, either by outright desertion or by rejection, remoteness or neglect. The daughter becomes obsessed with trying to understand his reasons, or with blaming her own shortcomings, or with struggling to earn his acceptance. Example: Marilyn Monroe.

Abusive Father and Victim Daughter. The father persecutes his daughter through physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The daughter identifies herself as a victim and grows up seeking other relationships in which she can play victim and/or rescuer and/or persecutor. Example: Rita Hayworth.

Pampering Father and Spoiled Daughter. The father makes a pet of his daughter, giving her everything she asks for, and more, without requiring her to earn it. The daughter learns to control others through charm or temper, yet lacks inner control and a sense of personal competence. Example: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Pygmalion Father and Companion Daughter. The father mentors his daughter, molding her into an exceptionally able woman and his ideal companion. The daughter grows up feeling special and privileged, yet believing that she owes it all to her father. Example: Anna Freud.

Ruined Father and Rescuing Daughter. A previously distant father turns to his daughter in trouble, expecting her to take care of him. The daughter sacrifices her own well-being in order to win his approval. Example: Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Depression, low self-esteem and problematic relationships with men are often the residue of a father’s desertion. Experts agree that daughters must attempt to release these painful symptoms. It’s realistic for women to be angry, but unhealthy for them to hold on to their pain. The pain, however, should be taken seriously, according to Wallerstein. She urges women to get an accurate story of their parents’ breakup in orde to begin to heal themselves. “Daughters often feel they were to blame for divorce. Getting a true picture may help them realize that their father’s leaving had nothing to do with them,” says the psychologist, who also advices that daughters seek counseling. “Individual or group therapy can help women work through issues.”

Gail Wyatt suggests that daughters of divorce can support one another in groups that don’t just describe problems, but rather probe for solutions. The therapist is cautious about advising women to confront their absentee fathers, saying, “Confrontation is sometimes therapeutic, but you have to know the man. If he’s basically concerned and will listen, he may be a good candidate. Daughters shouldn’t expect anything to change. Basically, expressing pent-up feelings face-to-face benefits daughters, not fathers.”

He says that many absentee fathers haven’t been taught how to get in touch with the expression of their softer side and feel uncomfortable with tender feelings. For those women who are still trying to negotiate a relationship with the father who has absent during their childhood, he advises direct communication. “Women need to be direct and clear about what they want. They should communicate this to the fathers, either face-to-face, through the telephone or in a letter,” he says. “To communicate effectively, women shouldn’t attack or put the man on the defensive. Instead they should try to connect and form a bond. Start off by saying ‘We share a lot. I know you’ve been hurt about our relationship.’ Provide the father an opportunity to express his pain.”

Roughly between the ages of 19 and 23, when girls begin to think seriously about committing themselves to a man, many seem to reconnect with the pain of their father’s leaving, say psychologists. At that point, the girl’s fear of failure between men and women begins to emerge. The result is that many of these young women distrust men, fearing that they will abandon them as their fathers did.

There are, of course, other violations even more catastrophic than a father’s absence. Physical and emotional abuse and incest leave indelible scars on little girls’ hearts.

“A violation of the father–daughter relationship leads to a fracturing of the psyche for both people,” says says Frederick B. Phillips. “Both go to great lengths to repress that violation, but in deeper terms they become less than whole as they carry the violation around.” Philips believes that both physically and sexually abused women exhibit symptoms of their abuse.

He says that women who have been molested by their fathers have specific pain and anger that play out in different ways. On one end of the spectrum, some abused women may enter the sex industry, becoming prostitutes and porn stars who act out the devaluation they have been taught to feel about their bodies; in the process they turn sex into a power relationship in which they feel they have control. At the other end are abused women who seem to behave normally but who carry their anger, hurt and mistrust into relationships with other men. According to Philips, most incest survivors, as well as victims of physical abuse, need psychological counseling to move beyond the pain of their traumatized girlhoods.

We are driven to create logical, orderly, consistent stories about our lives and about the lives of others, we pick and choose what incidents and information we want to remember, to forget, to enlarge, and to overlook. And our minds play tricks on us so that we can literally “remember” things that in fact never happened — memories created by what other people have told us, not by what we ourselves actually saw, heard, or did. So, for instance, if you believe that the group “mothers” is more self-sacrificing, more sensitive, more easily hurt, and more interested in talking about personal things than the group “fathers”, you will be more likely to notice and to remember the unselfish, sacrificing, sensitive things your mother has done.

You’ll also be more likely to forget the times she’s been selfish, aggressive, insensitive, manipulative, and emotionally abusive. Likewise, you will recall or feel off balance when your father tries to talk with you about personal things, cries in front of you, or talks about the sacrifices he has made for you. In short, I’m trying to get these daughters to understand that all of us usually only see something clearly after we are willing to believe it.

One of the most important factors determining how close a father and his children become is how much the mother allows him to share in the parenting. The mother almost always has power over the father in this respect — an enviable, powerful situation referred to as “maternal gate-keeping”. Put differently: “the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world”. Even the most well-intentioned, loving mother can feel insecure, jealous or competitive about the children’s getting as close to their father as they are to her — especially during infancy and early childhood when it’s the most important for her to open the gates between the father and children. Without meaning any harm, what the mother says and does too often makes it difficult for the father and children to develop as close a relationship as they might have otherwise.

What happens to most fathers after a divorce? Given that 50% of the couples in our country who say “I do”, eventually say “I don’t”, this topic interests students not only because a third of their parents are divorced, but because they are aware of the high probability of their ending up divorced some day. At any rate, the research is a far cry from what most of them imagine. After divorce most fathers are more depressed and suicidal than mothers and grieve for years over losing their children. Most are not joyful, swinging bachelors who end up marrying young women. And most do not end up with a far higher standard of living than their ex-wives and children.

Similarly, researcher Judith Wallerstein finds divorce often turns daughters against fathers. Understandably, daughters raised under such circumstances later tend to have great difficulty establishing trusting, committed relationships with their romantic partners. And because these women sometimes attempt to compensate for the lack of masculine approval by engaging in sex before marriage, their problems often increase rather than decrease over time.

Finally daughters have to come face to face with the fact that the kind of relationship a girl has with her father does matter as much — and in many ways matters more — than her relationship with her mother. Even if they want to believe — as some do — that their relationship with their father no longer matters, the research shows them how and why their fathers continue to affect them: in their academic lives, future careers, relationships with boyfriends, sexual and social self confidence, their ability to express anger and stand up for themselves, mental health, and feelings about how they look and what they weigh.

On the personal level, daughters whose fathers are physically or emotionally absent are much likelier to develop serious problems with other men in their lives. “It is fathers far more than mothers who determine what it means to be a girl and how comfortable she is or is not in her own sexual sin,” writes Victoria Secunda, author of Women and Their Fathers.

One of the most important ways men affirm the femininity of their daughters is by treating their wives with honor, respect, and tenderness. Parents who cannot bear being in one another’s presence reveal as much, if not more, to a child about romantic love as anything the mother or father might say.

Fathers tend to pull away when their girls hit adolescence, which makes things worse. Dads have no idea how much their daughters need them at this point.” Or how much what they say matters. Maine notes that even an innocuous comment from a father about baby fat can initiate a cycle of dieting and depression in young girls.

It can be even more unnerving for some men to engage with their daughters when the girls hit puberty and, at times, overwhelm their dads with their burgeoning sexuality. In response, many fathers simply pull away. “It can be a very confusing time for dads, but when fathers connect with their daughters, they’re laying the groundwork for positive relationships with boys later on. Girls who feel connected and respected by their father will look for the same healthy relationships with the boys in their life.” , says Joe Kelly, co-founder of Dads and Daughters workshop.

Dads and Daughters has come up with some practical suggestions to help fathers connect with their daughters:

–CARPOOL The more time dads spend with daughters and their friends in the car and at their school, the more insight they can have into their daughters’ world.

–TAKE AN INTEREST IN HER ACTIVITIES Studies show that when fathers take an active interest in and play sports with their daughters, the girls are less likely to have unhealthy or abusive relationships.

–LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGING Fathers sometimes want to rush in and fix problems; daughters don’t always need solutions but want to air their feelings without fretting that Dad will freak.

–SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES Girls benefit from knowing that even dads have faced adolescent uncertainty.

–SPEND ONE-ON-ONE TIME Bike riding, going out for ice cream or playing board games together is great for younger girls; older girls enjoy going alone with Dad to a favorite restaurant or having a regular bowling date.

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  • Rita Torres

    2009-08-14 13:22:05
    what age should a father stop seeing his daughter naked?

  • by aynonymous

    2009-08-29 12:36:59

    This is a great question. I don’t know the answer, but my gut says not past the age of 8 or 9, especially if alone. My mother made me take showers with my father up until 6th grade. (I was fully developed and looked like a grown woman.) There was a lot of physical and sexual abuse in my house, and now at 51, I still have memories of the shame I felt in the shower.

  • Sherry Hanson

    2009-09-03 00:24:35
    Marilyn Monroe syndrome here. As the mother of a 14 yr. old son, I feel that a dad should not see his daughter naked once she grows pre-pubesent. That is the stage my son was at when I decided to shield him from my sight as a parent.

  • Leah

    2009-09-18 23:58:36
    6-7 is more than appropriate.

  • Ciara

    2009-09-20 04:55:23
    I have so much hate and blame towards my father. As a 5 year old one day my mother ubruptly took me and my siblings and left my father standing on the doorstep. I have always remembered his face looking so helpless and I wonder why he never stopped my mother and let me go without fighting for me. Now as a 26yo I am pregnant and the father of my baby wants nothing to do with me. Once again I feel disregarded and abandoned. How do I overcome this feeling and hurt?

  • stephanie

    2009-09-27 00:18:55
    ciara you really need especially being alone and pregnant some councelling and a support network as you have what i believe rejection fears as i have had my whole life maybe look around your area for some women groups or community centers etc as they should have information on whats available to you in your local area or state and please always remember it was never ever your fault as to why they left something that took me along time to realize and good luck in the future with you and your little treasure and please try to always think positive and dont let those negative feelings take over especially when being pregnant when your emotions are all over the place

  • editor

    by Faggot15
    Even when you know full well that it is broken.

  • Sammi

    My dad & I fall into the abusive father-victim daughter he always called me dumb, fat & stupid. He always played with my cousins, never with me. When I needed help with homework he would yell “do it yourself”. When I didn’t need help he would stick his two sense in. When I turned 50 he finally told me he loved me. Now I am his caregiver. How ironic we end up together. With the men in my life, I’ve been the rescuer. I married a man like my dad. Mom & dad were soulmates. I’ve always wanted a man to love me like my dad loved my mom. I thought I finally found that man but he is totally obsessed with his teenage daughter. I have come to the conclusion that I will never know what it’s like to have true love with a man

  • richssss @ 04 Feb 2010, 04:23

    well for starters a lot of people on here that reply to the showering with dad age must not be living the reality i see…go to any local pool or ymca and you will see dads and moms with children older than 6 or 7 using the same shower rooms. when i took my daughter (10) to the local ymca i was told the showers were big enough to shower with her…that was suggested to me by a 50yr old WOMAN!… ive seen at least 80% of the time i go there families with older children using them together…at the local pool its the same way…whats with people making an issue of a man simply seeing his daughter…ARE YOU KIDDING? she is 50% his dna…i am a personal care worker and i do personal cares with children of both sexes from 7 to 17…. so someone is going to tell me that i can do personal cares for a 14yo girl but simply seeing my daughter naked is wrong…wow…in different cultures its perfectly normal…and im no doctor but i doubt anyone is fully formed in 6th grade and looks like a woman…that would be a first….in my daughters school sex ed is in 3rd grade..and with the education from their peers and easy access to the internet or their own school library dont think because your child doesnt see your nudity they wont see it…thats just crazy logic..hide yourself all you want..i dont think with your comments any of you actually have children. if we are simply talking about viewing his own daughter then whats the difference if she is seen by her mom or dad…seeing is no crime…there is no law for it….i dont understand the logic of it being wrong…whats he gonna do if he sees her?…how does it hurt her? what is he gonna see he hasnt seen before…breasts?…hair? as a father when i see my daughter i see myself thats what i see..regardless of age.

  • ja5per

    i took nothing to do with my daughter and denied she was mine until 3 years ago when she got married at 23. i gave her a wedding present, we met up and now i am a proud,loving father,friend and grandfather to 3 adoring wee boys. After being married and divorced with 4 sons i now realise that a daughters love has no equal and that i have been blessed by god with these gifts. i worship the ground she walks upon.

  • Christine Montgomery

    Question: My dad was never really involved in my life and now since I’ve turned 18 (which I am now 33), has came around just a little bit, but I’m not real comfortable with this. He came to visit in Oct. and that was the first time I had seen him in 8 years and his first to ever meet my children. Of course, he brought LOTS of toys and wanted them calling him Papa or Grandmpa. I am not comfortable with this because of all those years of being absent from our lives, he now wants to just call him dad and grandpa?? I don’t think so! HE just comes and goes as he pleases and I’m done but yet my compassion gets in the way and I feel sorry for him because I am his only child. Help, please!

  • Earl Sam

    ……although the “typical black man” doesn’t seem to encourage “any” relationship involving opposite sexes regardless, as is seen in some localities around my country and work and other factors do not allow many fathers give sufficient time to helping their daughters with the basic information they need to stay safe and fine;I personally agree with the writer of this article.
    Each time i see pregnant teens on the streets, unmarried, i see failed fathers (also mother anyway).It’s rather unfortunate that these failed fathers put the blame on their daughters and some get to the extent of sending them outta their homes, although rare.
    All i am trying to say is that “we” need to learn.

    ” use common sense”

  • Rattat

    I don’t mean to be rude but this is the most ridiculous article. Why in the world would you say that a father daughter relationship is more important than that with her mother. How unfair! How evil! Please don’t spread that myth! OMG

  • coco

    my father is very abusive and in retrospect i feel this has been detrimental in my relationships with men…text book stuff. I am determined to break the cycle…All hope is not lost.

  • Joeemail

    As a Divorced Father how do you deal with a daughter who seems to have no emotions , desire, heart  toward you or anyone whom seems to know her,  seems to careless on my feelings even after i expressed them to her. i have always been there for her and also attend every function and who wants to have a relationship with his daughter, However never get any emotions or feelings back from her is getting very hard to take.
    No she has not been abused or does drugs, gets good grades and does not get into trouble. So that to me is not the issues.
    Spent hours in car driving multiple times and she may have said 5 words, Tried talking to her and get nothing or maybe a yea or no.
    Tried to help her with her future, however she appears not to care.
    I have been to counseling and tried to get her with to go to no avail.
    Counselor mentions oh its just a teenage thing, No its not this has been going on for years,
    I feel more used then anything.
    Just getting very disheartened you cant keep trying only to keep getting kicked in face however i feel maybe just lets things be and if she wants to connect be there for her if she ever needs me, but stop trying to connect with her if she doesn’t want to connect.

  • AnnaElis.

    Fathers should never give up on their daughters no matter what. Just be there.