Fathers and daughters have a unique bond. Without a doubt, children need the influences of both parents. Mothers and fathers create the foundation for their children's physical well-being, emotional adjustment and positive self-identity. Studies of family dynamics show that the father is especially crucial for the child's intellectual, social and emotional development. A close relationship between fathers and children nurtures the child's self-confidence and self-esteem. But from infancy through adulthood, daughters in particular crave their father's approval and seek his advice. Fathers in return benefit from the special relationship they share with their daughters.
The reality of today's families, according to the American Psychological Association, is that with more mothers working outside the home and spending less time with their children, fathers are spending more time parenting than in the past. But even so, many fathers report that they would spend more time with their families if they could, but for the exigencies of working to support the family. In 80 percent of American families, the father still earns the higher salary, and consequently spends fewer hours at home. Research shows that in families where mothers work full time outside the home, and bring in the higher income, fathers spend more time parenting. Moreover, when mothers are away at work many hours while the children are young, fathers and daughters can form a closer bond.
One consequence of the current increased presence of the father in households is the father's influence on the daughter's career choice. Gen X and Gen Y daughters are more likely than in previous generations to follow in their father's career path as a result of his increased involvement in child rearing.
Fathers generally have more impact than mothers in several additional specific areas of their daughter's development. A dad's presence during his daughter's formative years enhances her ability to achieve academic success, especially in science and math; to achieve career success; to create trusting relationships with men; to deal well with authority figures; to become self-reliant and self-confident; to be open to challenges; to maintain good mental health; and to express anger appropriately.
Even more important than the quantity of the time spent together is the quality of the time. The quality of the father-daughter relationship is important in developing romantic relationships later on. The daughter learns through her father's example how to communicate with and develop a level of trust with men. The combined effect of the personalities of the individuals along with the quality of the father-daughter bond creates the groundwork for good romantic relationships.
When fathers pay attention to their daughters, are responsive to their daughters' needs and encourage their independence, daughters tend to be well adjusted. The stress here is on the quality rather than the quantity of time spent together in evaluating the daughter's mental health. Likewise, researchers found that when fathers demonstrate high expectations of their gifted daughters, and gave them guidance and encouragement, the daughters were able to persevere in their goals to achieve success.
Of course fathers come in all types, with their own parenting styles. Circumstances are not always ideal, and when the father's parenting style is not optimal, daughter's development is affected. As opposed to supportive and doting fathers, a controlling, tyrannical, or abusive father can have daughters who are less well adjusted. These girls respond with stereotypical behaviors: compliance (in which she accepts the tacit message that she is not good enough, and unable to care for herself), rebellion (where she pursues her own marginal or risky lifestyle in contradiction to the family's values), or procrastination (a tendency to accomplish little, and inability to achieve her own objectives).
In families in which the father is absent from the daughter's everyday life, studies reveal that the relationship with the father, where it exists at all, tends to lack intimacy and closeness. Subjects reported feeling a barrier that blocked the possibility of a close relationship in spite of the desire on both their parts to establish a stronger bond. Daughters report that, while they may feel that their father is not making an effort or is not caring enough, they nevertheless valued the relationship with their father despite the hurt feelings. This desire for closeness was undiminished by the possible presence of custodial parents and other nurturing relationships.
What does the father get out of the relationship with his daughter? Fathers experience delight in their daughters and great satisfaction in a close relationship with them. A strong sense of concern for their daughter's welfare often results in a feeling of responsibility to be a model for a relationship with a man who is devoted to her. This can result in a lifelong relationship that grows deeper and more rewarding through time.