Daughters Need Fathers Too

By Mattox, William R., Jr. | The American Enterprise, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Daughters Need Fathers Too


Mattox, William R., Jr., The American Enterprise


We spend so much time worrying about fathers and sons that we often forget about daughters' need for fathers. 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.

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.

Paternal neglect of daughters also has political ramifications. The much-publicized gender gap in American politics exists not so much between husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters, or mothers and sons, as between fathers and daughters. For example, in the most recent presidential election, middle-aged married fathers were the family demographic group most apt to support candidates who believe in limited government, while young single women, especially those who were pregnant or raising children out of wedlock, were the group most apt to support the welfare state. Apparently, the daughters and girlfriends of irresponsible men overwhelmingly support candidates who promise lots of governmental assistance, because these women believe the men in their lives can't be trusted to offer the support they need.

Opponents of the centralized welfare state, then, need to recognize that much of the animating energy for radical feminism ultimately stems from broken father-daughter relationships. And while we must continue to challenge radical feminist ideas in the public square, we will not prevail against this unisex philosophy until the hearts of fathers are turned to their daughters.

Social, political, and (especially) spiritual leaders must promote strong father-daughter bonds.

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