Years ago in graduate school I wrote a paper about the importance of a father on a daughter’s development. This topic was important to me because I knew that my own father had a very positive influence on my life. And raising two young daughters at that time, I felt compelled to stress the value of the role of father to my husband — who tended to listen more carefully to words loaded with expert citations than the words of his wife. The carefully researched paper got his attention, thankfully. He is a good dad to our girls.
But in doing my research on fathers and daughters I found myself frustrated, because frankly, there wasn’t much about it at the time. The literature back in the 1990s and before was exclusively focused on mothers and mothering. Hardly a word about the importance of dad on a child’s life! But here is some of what I did find…
… Although the toddler daughter may require a certain amount of tender nurturing from the father in order to be able to utilize his encouragement of mastery or independence, she is also apt to look to him for both special caring and protective powers in the face of the unfamiliar or threatening. (3 a.m. — Protect me from the spiders under my bed, daddy!)
The fathers’ involvement in the daughter’s autonomous capabilities continues to be important in later childhood and adolescence. More salient than a distant pride in her achievement is his willingness to involve himself in the process. (Tell me about your Science Fair project… It amazes me how easily you can play your violin!) Such involvement provides a viable foundation for a continued good relationship during adolescence, when the more powerful force of sexuality and the struggle to affirm a more separate identity necessitate a greater distance between them in other areas.
Women who emphasize their father’s contributions to their enthusiasm in work usually stress the following aspects of their relationship: his treatment of her as an interesting person in her own right; his trust in her developing autonomous capacities during joint endeavors; his own capacity for excitement or enthusiasm about discovery in work or play; his invitation to her to participate in areas of mastery with him; and the emulated quality of his relationship to others, such as colleagues or friends, associated with work in the outside world. (My heart is filled with pride when my husband introduces our daughters to his professional colleagues and friends. It shows admiration and respect that is much deserved.) The particular area of interest developed by the daughter is not necessarily shared by the father. Young women are apt to draw on their experience of such an encouraging affective engagement involving initiative and mastery in work in order to seek out a mentor who might also appreciate these qualities, but in a quite different area of interest (Tessman, 1982)…
Recent research, fortunately, looks more specifically at how a father influences a child’s development.
Check out this good article looking at what the current research tells us about the importance of dad in the life of his children…
“The great emphasis on mothers and mothering in American has led to an inappropriate tendency to blame mothers for children’s behavior problems and maladjustments when, in fact, fathers are often more implicated than mothers in the development of problems such as these.”
www.medicalnewstoday.com , June 14, 2012.