We define fatherless as the lack of emotional bond between a daughter and her father due to, but not limited to: death, divorce, abuse, addiction, incarceration or abandonment.
The term “daddy issues” may be on the tacky side, but they are definitely a thing and it turns out a lot of people have them: Statistics show that roughly one-third of children live in homes without their biological father present, and many other dads are essentially absent due to issues like addiction or abuse.
The hallmark characteristic of a fatherless daughter is fear of abandonment. Because they never got the direction needed from a father figure, they learn to make up their own survival playbook. This can lead to negative coping skills such as sexual promiscuity, total avoidance of intimacy, isolation, substance abuse, anxiety and depression.
The emotional impact of an absentee dad can be long lasting and has the potential to interfere with healthy relationships in adulthood.
Females are, of course, affected in unique ways, since many go on to have relationships with men as adults and that can trigger unresolved issues, at least one in three women see themselves as fatherless.
The majority of them felt that losing the bond with their fathers deeply affected multiple areas of their lives, including their emotional and physical health.
Their number one fear was being abandoned again, and their main coping mechanism was isolation.
On the flip side, daughters also reported having a great respect for their mothers as they grew up, gaining a greater realisation of the difficulties she faced and being grateful for all she did to raise her.
On another positive note, fatherless daughters often develop determined spirits and survival very early on. They are loyal friends and can love like no other ultimately, they just want to give love and be loved.
Because their playbook may be a bit rusty or confusing, they can fall into relationship traps by picking the wrong partners.
They may go after men who are similar to their fathers or decide to stay away from men altogether
They learn subconsciously to accept less in relationships due to diminished self-esteem.
They usually believe they must work for love or may not be worthy of it at all, and as a result, they go down the wrong path in love until they finally realise their “picker” is off. This usually happens after a heartbreaking loss of love that resembles the loss they felt from their fathers.
This is when they are ready to make change resilience, determination and leadership skills kick in and they decide to get help once and for all.
Conversations about the importance of fathers usually revolve around sons: how boys benefit from having a positive male role model, a consistent disciplinarian, and a high-energy roughhousing partner on their way to pursuing career and family success in adulthood.
But fathers also affect the lives of their young adult daughters in intriguing and occasionally surprising ways. In exploring this area, uppermost on the minds of many is a young woman’s academic and vocational path how her relationship with her father influences her academic performance and, as a consequence, her career success and financial wellbeing.
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.
This helps explain why girls who have no brothers are overly represented among the world’s political leaders: they tend to receive more encouragement from their fathers to be high achievers.
Even college and professional female athletes often credit their fathers for helping them to become tenacious, self-disciplined, ambitious, and successful.
The well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling. During the college years, these daughters are more likely than poorly-fathered women to turn to their boyfriends for emotional comfort and support and they are less likely to be “talked into” having sex.
As a consequence of having made wiser decisions in regard to sex and dating, these daughters generally have more satisfying, more long-lasting marriages. What is surprising is not that fathers have such an impact on their daughters’ relationships with men, but that they generally have more impact than mothers do.
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. An emerging body of research suggests one more way that dads may shape their daughters’ mental health and relationships in adulthood: scholars have found an intriguing link between the way daughters deal with stress as adults and the kind of relationships they had with their dads during childhood.
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.
This is probably due to the widely held belief that children, but daughters especially are “supposed” to talk more about personal issues with their mothers than with their fathers.
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. Her leaving for college, getting married, and having children often deepened their relationship and made it less stressful largely because the daughter gained a better understanding of her father’s perspective and because he began treating her more like an adult.
In sum, fathers have a far-reaching influence on their daughters’ lives both negative and positive. 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.