Many people today think that biological fathers are not essential for raising daughters. In fact, we even support this view by passing no-fault divorce laws, single-mother welfare laws, and by opposing shared parenting laws. The story goes that children do fine without their biological father in the home. Having children is something that women decide to do, and the man is superfluous. So I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the research.
Here is a recent article from the centrist Institute for Family Studies.
The dynamic between fathers and their daughters has been characterized by one expert as the most “fragile and unstable” when compared to other parent-child relationships.1 It can be further described as one of the most powerful and vital relationships to individuals, communities, and nations. For instance, fathers have a profound impact on their daughters’ body image,2 clinical depression, eating disorders,3 self-esteem, and life satisfaction,4 to name but a few.
But of all the unique contributions a father makes in his daughter’s life, perhaps there is none of greater significance than in the area of sexual development and activity and romantic relationships.
- Numerous studies have discovered female pubertal timing occurs later in girls whose fathers are consistently present in their life.5
- An extensive body of research has revealed that early pubertal maturation in girls is associated with a variety of negative biological, psychological, and social outcomes, including, mood disorders,6 substance abuse,7 adolescent pregnancy,8 and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.9
- Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.10
[…]The conditions in our culture of both rampant fatherlessness and sexual promiscuity are incompatible with forming secure and healthy relationships with boys and with establishing stable families for the next generation. A young girl’s sexual development can significantly outpace her neurological and emotional development—the very resources needed to guide her sexual choices.
Herein lies the danger. Much of our culture today promotes sexual activity but void of healthy attachment or true intimacy. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that high levels of father involvement (regardless of dad’s marital status) are predictive of high levels of intimacy, commitment, and trust in young female adults’ romantic relationships; whereas low levels of father involvement are predictive of the opposite.11
How a father treats both his daughter and her mother can help a young woman feel safe and secure in her relationships with the boys and men in her life, including her future husband. Family scientists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered that girls appear to be born with an emotional, relational, and evolutionary void that a father is designated to fill. If left vacant, girls will be more likely to seek to fill it in with other, unhealthier substitutes. The father-daughter relationship is the one that best teaches young women about true love and intimacy, self-worth, and respect.
Professor Linda Nielsen summarized this in one profound sentence: “[T]he father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the males in her life.”
So, a father’s love keeps her from getting into relationships with boys before the boys are ready to commit to her. By the way, I don’t think that boys should even be allowed to TALK to girls about a relationship, unless they have a STEM degree, and two years of private sector work experience. I really hate when unemployed, penniless boys waste a girl’s time when they can’t afford to commit to her. People think I am pretty rough on women, but I really am much meaner to men who don’t have STEM degrees and gapless resumes. (I guess a skilled trade would work as well, in place of the STEM degree – something like electrician, for example).
Anyway, back to the research. When a woman is deciding which men to have sex with, she has to be thinking of more than just her own needs. She has to choose a man who is going to stick around long enough to raise her daughters, so that they grow up with the confidence to resist the advances of boys who aren’t ready to commit. To be pro-woman means to be pro-daughter, and that means that women need to be persuaded to be careful about the choice of sex partner, and the timing of sexual activity. This is why people used to keep sex for marriage in the past: to protect children by making sure that they would get the stability and engagement they need from their parents.
Also, I have talked about the research about father-son bond in a different post.
If you want to do right for your children, then you need to control yourself and make wise choices. And if you’re struggling to make good choices, then don’t leave it up to your emotions and peer approval. Disregard your emotions. Disregard peer approval. Instead, let your decision-making be guided by your Christian convictions, and strengthened with scientific evidence. The Bible tells you not to have sex before you’re married, and science tells you why this is good policy. The Bible gives you the goals, and science tells you how to how the world works, so you know how to make plans that will make sure you are never in a place where you are pressured to do the wrong thing. The more science you pack into your head, the easier it will be for you to convince yourself to do the right thing, and to convince your partner to do the right thing. Science takes moral decision-making outside the realm of feelings and opinions.
And if your partner says “I don’t care about the needs of our future children”, then you have a good reason to dump them and move on. You can’t be in a relationship with someone who thinks that children’s needs are less important than adult desires. In fact, the whole design for relationships should start with what children need from the marriage and parents, and work backward from there to the obligations on the man and the woman. And men and women ought to discuss this. What are we trying to achieve with this relationship anyway? And what is the right way to achieve it? This is where the research comes in – it shows you how to do it right.
Research from the Heritage Foundation
One thought on “What do research studies say about the bond between fathers and daughters?”
I love it, thank you!
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