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Wed Aug 15, 2012, 11:39 PM

The importance of father/daughter relationships

I see a lot of conversations about the need for fathers to develop proper relationships with their sons in order to prevent violence against women and other associated anti-social behavior. However, I don't see many people discussing the effect of father and daughter relationships and the impact this has on young women. I am fortunate enough to have both a son and a daughter. My son is grown and now lives outside the home and my daughter is mostly grown. A very good friend and neighbor is a psychologist and we've had quite a few conversations regarding parenting and young people in general. According to her, young women who have poor or non-existent relationships with their fathers tend to seek out the wrong type of men and engage in riskier behavior in regards to their relationships with other men. The reasoning is that the first male-female relationship that most women have is with their father and what they learn from that has a significant effect on them as a young adult. Girls tend to develop things like confidence, respect, assertiveness, and self-worth to a greater degree from their fathers than their mothers. They also learn a lot from watching how their fathers interact with their mothers.

I am lucky in that both of my kids are turning into great adults. I like to think that good parenting techniques have a lot to do with that. I haven't seen much here in the way of conversation regarding the male perspective on parenting. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest job any man can have is being a father. I hope this thread spurns more conversation here on that subject.

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply The importance of father/daughter relationships (Original post)
Major Nikon Aug 2012 OP
Warren DeMontague Aug 2012 #1
Major Nikon Aug 2012 #2
Denninmi Aug 2012 #3
Major Nikon Aug 2012 #6
lumberjack_jeff Aug 2012 #4
Major Nikon Aug 2012 #5
Warren DeMontague Aug 2012 #7

Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Thu Aug 16, 2012, 06:23 AM

1. My Dad was drunk, then absent, in that order.

I swore before I became a dad that I wasn't going to do it until and unless I was ready to throw myself into it 100% and really be there for my kids. I'm not a perfect father, but I think I'm a good one. And it is bar none my most important job, the most important thing I do.

We get a lot of flak around here for not accepting notions like conspiracy theories about "The Patriarchy", but I absolutely DO believe that there have historically been gender roles and expectations that have limited and stunted BOTH genders. I grew up in a town where all the dads were like "Mad Men", coming home slightly drunk on the 5 or 6 PM train. Then shuffling out of the station in gray matching suits. Except unlike mad men, unless there was a secret life I wasn't seeing, no one appeared particularly happy about their respective stations in life.

I'm glad things have changed since I was a kid. I'm glad women (as well as men) are freer now to pursue self-fulfillment in whatever ways they can make it work, or try to, given the economic realities- and I am glad that there is freedom, and a certain expectation, for dads to be much more actively involved with their kids' development than they were in the old days.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #1)

Thu Aug 16, 2012, 10:10 AM

2. I'm not a perfect father either

I've always told my kids this. I think it's important for kids to understand this because often kids grow up with the expectation that their parents are perfect because they rarely admit when they are wrong. So I tell my kids that I'm going to make mistakes with them, but the important part is that I always have their best interests in mind and I try to be the best father I can. My daughter is wrestling with this concept just as my son did when he was her age. Teenagers develop an independent streak an want to challenge their parents on lots of things. So I tell my daughter that I may be wrong, but I'm still the parent and I still have the responsibility for the decision. I don't take this to the extreme and say that my word is law and can never be questioned, however I do tell my kids that their mother and I have the last word in how long the debate lasts. My father (who was a Unitarian pastor) had a saying about this. He said when your kids are small, you wish they would never leave, but god has a plan for this. He turns them into teenagers and then you can't wait to get rid of them.

The "Mad Men" fathers were largely the product of the industrial age. When the US transition from an agrarian society to an industrial based economy, the father went off to work at the office or the factory while the mother was delegated (sometimes nearly exclusively) to child rearing. The institution of fatherhood suffered greatly and the results speak for themselves. I feel that as men we have the obligation to foster better positive fatherly traits among ourselves, but this doesn't happen nearly enough. This is one area in which women are head and shoulders above us.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 11:39 AM

3. My personal perspective on this.

I wanted to comment regarding the question of father/daughter relationships. I can only offer my own perspective as a child, growing up in the environment I did, with anecdotal evidence as support for my position.

I am the fourth of four children, there is a significant age gap of 9 years between me and the youngest, and 17 years between me and the oldest. And I am the only boy, the three older were all girls. So my perceptions may be somewhat shaped by virtue of the fact that I was observing relationships at a different stage than my own stage of development throughout the period.

My father seemed to be an adequate parent to my three sisters. He was reasonably involved with them as people, and most significantly with the youngest, who was a “tom boy” and who was quite willing to go along with my father’s interests in all things outdoors, hunting and fishing. As did the oldest. The middle one had no such interests. He was so close with the youngest sister that I, even at quite an early age, felt a great deal of jealously over the relationship.

I say that my father was an adequate parent, because he was a pretty typical parent of the “Mad Men” era, in fact he fit that image fairly closely – upper middle management or lower upper management, however you want to phrase it, at one of the Big 3 auto companies. He was reasonably close to them, interacted with them reasonably enough, their relationships seemed normal for the times and social attitudes, which were that he, as the “man of the house” ruled the roost fairly tightly, not quite with an iron fist, but close to it.

Fast forward a bit, I was born when my father was mid-40s and was not planned. And I never sensed any real affection or concern for me on his part, in fact, a great deal of the time, I sensed that he resented me a great deal. I believe there were several reasons for this. The first was the fact that he probably had no desire to have another child who would be an anchor upon him during middle age. The second was that my father was extremely abusive to my mother emotionally, and was literally paranoid in the clinical sense. He was obsessed with the idea that my mother committed adultery against him on a near-daily basis, which is completely divorced from any reality. And he specifically said that I was the product of this infidelity, because the “guys at the shop” i.e. at his work place said it was “strange” that my mother would become pregnant when he was at work all day – as if nothing happened in the evenings I guess.

When I was pre-adolescent, I was set on full-blown ignore mode by my father. I craved attention from him, and I was always rejected. One typical example, when I was about 7, spring came around, and baseball/softball became a hot area of interest on the playground. I begged and pleaded for him just to show me how to pitch and catch. He wouldn’t do anything until my mother forced him to, then he took me in the back yard, tossed me the ball twice, and walked away. That was typical of how he treated me during that period. Simultaneous, he was bonded to the hip with my youngest sister, they spent innumerable hours hunting and fishing. My mother tried to get them to include me once or twice, and I was told that I wasn’t wanted, by both father and sister.

After adolescence, his attitude changed from neglect to abuse. Essentially all emotional/verbal, with only a few times when he became slightly physical, mostly those times he would grab my by the shirt or collar, and perhaps give me an open-handed slap across the face. The verbal/emotional abuse was pretty extreme, I remember him making comments explicitly such as “you are trash, you’ll never amount to anything”. It became pretty bad by the time I was in high school. He was also on a mission to “teach me” how to do various mechanical, automotive, carpentry, etc., skills, which became terrifying because no matter what I did, it was inadequate in his eyes, and he would explode in violent fits of temper at me for the least small offense in his eyes.

It was a fun childhood. Not. I was desperate for a father figure when younger, and terrified of what little I had of one when I was older.

I’ve had a lot of issues in my life. My sisters seem to have turned out significantly more emotionally stable, well adjusted, and prosperous in life.

I don't know if I could say that its a function of gender so much as a function of the quality and character of the parenting skill.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #3)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 05:36 PM

6. Certainly the importance of father/son relationships are a significant part of childhood development

It just seems to me that this topic is discussed more than father/daughter relationships, and I think the ways in which each gender is affected by their father is not exactly the same. For instance, I'm pretty sure the father can have a big influence on the type of people his daughter will pursue relationships with in adulthood. I'm not sure you can say the same about his sons.

I hope the worst of your issues are behind you. Poor childhood emotional development is something many people struggle their whole life with, which underscores the need to develop good parents and other role models in our society.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 12:14 PM

4. My feeling is that your children are the only people you're stuck with.


You have to do right by them, even if it costs you your relationship with their mother.

Case in point. Unsurprisingly, her conclusions are all wrong; moms who take their preadolescent daughters to runway shows are only helpless victims of a domineering husband that secretly wants to see his 10 year old as a swimsuit model.

The real problem is that of a father who has abdicated his parenthood role by allowing it. Dads; trust your instincts, and don't delegate your responsibility.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #4)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 03:03 PM

5. That's the great thing about the invention of the "patriarchy"

You can blame everything on men, even if the problems are a direct result of female behavior. This also leads to other nutty concepts like objectification, self-objectification, male-gaze, etc. Once you have a whole set of pseudo-scientific tools at your disposal, you can use them to draw all sorts of false premises like girls going through adrenarche or puberty prefer sexy dolls because they have been sexualized by the patriarchy and ignore the more obvious reason that their body is releasing hormones into their bloodstream which has a dramatic effect on sexual behavior.

I agree that dads should take a stand against beauty queen moms, and on the opposite side of the spectrum I see an even bigger threat from moms who teach their daughters they are victims of the "patriarchy". Imagine the effect of training your kids to be lifelong malcontents and all the sexual hangups that go with their warped agenda. At least the daughters of beauty queen moms have a pretty good shot at a healthy emotional life so long as their fathers are fulfilling their role adequately.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #5)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 06:41 PM

7. Like all conspiracy theories, cultlike/apocalyptic worldviews, etc. It simplifies matters greatly

for the believers.

One great evil, one all-powerful conspiracy, one penultimate wrong, one original sin. One great battle against evil, one easily identifiable "bad guy".

I find that whole beauty queen mom thing real creepy.

I also think that in the real world, as opposed to DU, the folks who go on endlessly about "The Patriarchy™" are a decidedly small minority. I ran up against some of that nonsense back in the 80s in college, I think if anything that element wields far less ideological sway than they used to.

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