This post comes from a different perspective. Rather than the subjective experience along a father’s path, the objective findings about fathers are brought to light. Over the years more and more research has pointed to the importance fathers have in the lives of children at every stage. As the role evolves, a father’s presence, responsiveness, and involvement in the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting has benefited the health, well-being, and overall development of his sons and daughter. To name a few, associations have been found between father involvement and: 1
- Decreased risk of illness and infant mortality
- Self-confidence, risk taking, and environmental exploration in early childhood
- Higher self-esteem and lower fear of failure in childhood through young adult
- Academic achievement in childhood, higher socioeconomic status in adulthood
On the other hand, a father’s absence in his children’s lives is correlated with a number of negative attributes such as:
- Lower ability to delay gratification
- Higher degree of interpersonal problems and fewer problem-solving skills,
- Poorer psychological adjustment
- Higher prevalence of depression and anxiety
- Higher levels of alcohol consumption as young adults
- More hostile behaviors
- Higher probability of incarceration
A father’s presence or absence matters. Interestingly, it matters in a unique way for daughters, particularly when it comes to paternal attachment and communication. One study found that “girls diagnosed with depression reported less perceived paternal warmth and more perceived overall rejection, less perceived paternal emotional availability, more negative affect about their fathers, lower attachment, and more problematic communication.” 2
While one study may be a small sampling, consider the words of Dr. Meg Meeker in her post “Why Daughters Need Their Fathers”:
“After more than 20 years of listening to daughters — and doling out antibiotics, antidepressants, and stimulants to girls who have gone without a father’s love — I know just how important fathers are. As a pediatrician, I have listened hour after hour to young girls describe how they vomit in junior high bathrooms to keep their weight down…. I’ve watched girls drop off varsity tennis teams, flunk out of school, and carve initials or tattoo cult figures onto their bodies — all to see if their dads will notice.” 3
Even in times when teenage daughters are closing their doors, or seem to be pushing us away—they still peek to see if we are there. To see if we notice. And wonderful things happen when Dads do notice. Even more when they are connected and involved. For example, an article examined father-daughter relationships when fathers lived or did not live in the home through adolescence. Reflecting on their relationship, these daughters (aged 18-21) reported higher levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction than daughters whose fathers did not live at home. The authors point out that the key factor “is the quality of the relationship and the degree to which it conveys a feeling of support, love, and nurturance to daughters.” 4
Even if we look objectively along a father’s path, we find that the investment of the heart and soul matters most. In the quality of our day-to-day interactions, we build something durable and true over time. And that is a firm foundation for future relationships and explorations along the way.
1 Hill, S. E., Leyva, R. P. P., & DelPriore, D. J. (2016). Absent fathers and sexual strategies. PSYCHOLOGIST
2 Demidenko, N., Manion, I., & Lee, C. M. (2015). Father–Daughter Attachment and Communication in Depressed and Nondepressed Adolescent Girls. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(6), 1727-1734.
4 Allgood, S. M., Beckert, T. E., & Peterson, C. (2012). The Role of Father Involvement in the Perceived Psychological Well-Being of Young Adult Daughters: A Retrospective Study. North American Journal of Psychology, 14(1).