Category: Fathers As Nurturers

Sometimes the love of a parent heals, too.

By Susan Scutti

In her 1992 bookWomen and Their Fathers: The Sexual and Romantic Impact of the First Man in Your Life, Victoria Secunda concluded that a number of men and women grow up with a “remote and aloof father.” Those women who do not feel affirmed by their fathers develop a tendency, then, to respond to the men in their lives as they once responded to their elusive father: they desperately seek intimacy but are unable to believe that men can be trusted and so they remain always on guard.

Fathers, then, have a profound impact on their daughters’ lives. Yet many women, because of separation or discomfort, are unable to fully explore their relationship with their fathers and spend instead much more of their time examining their mother-daughter bond. Clearly, though, to fully develop her life and her self, a daughter needs to consider her relationship with dad. Understanding how that essential bond has shaped her, she can then face the challenge of accepting her life (and her father) and get on with the general business of becoming the woman she wants to be.

Easier said than done? Maybe. Two recent studies might help you better understand this process.


In a study published within the past year, researchers examined whether the quality of the father-daughter relationship is related to a daughter’s stress response. Specifically, the researchers measured activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as well as activity in the autonomic nervous system among daughters considered to be emerging adults.

Physiologists define stress as how the body reacts to a real or imagined stimulus that causes a reaction of alarm, resistance, and then exhaustion. This three-stage reaction is defined as the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). The HPA axis, a major part of the neuroendocrine system, is the mechanism for interactions among glands, hormones, and parts of the midbrain that mediate GAS, in addition to many other body processes, including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage and expenditure. When measuring activity in the HPA axis, then, the researchers were trying to discover the actual physical levels of stress and not just a reported level of stress, which might be either underestimated or exaggerated, depending on an individual woman.

The researchers divided the young women participating in the study into two groups: one group of women who reported their father-daughter relationships as characterized by rejection, chaos, and coercion, and another group of young women who reported their father-daughter relationships as characterized by warmth, autonomy, support, and structure. The researchers found that the first group had lower morning cortisol levels than the second, and they were temperamentally more sensitive to emotional changes. They also discovered the young women of the second group showed lower pretask cortisol levels and relatively weak cortisol responses to a discussion of problems with a friend in comparison to the women of the first group (rejection, chaos, and coercion). Among these women, pretask cortisol levels were elevated as were their cortisol levels in response to a problem discussion with a friend. Interestingly, they were also more likely to self-disclose their psychosocial stressors.

The researchers concluded that their findings suggest father-daughter interactions potentially influence a woman’s social cognition and her HPA reactivity to important stressors.

Yet, this was not the only measure taken by the researchers. They also examined the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of these two groups of women. The ANS functions for the most part below the level of consciousness and controls visceral functions: heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, salivation, perspiration, pupillary dilation, micturition (urination), and sexual arousal. Most autonomous functions are involuntary, though some work with some degree of conscious control. Surprisingly, the researchers observed no differences between the two groups of young women and their ANS levels.

This result seems to suggest our deepest, or at least our most unconscious, level of functioning in the world is unaffected by our relationship with our fathers. Do women have more independence from their fathers’ opinions and therefore a greater abilty to shape our lives than purely psychological studies suggest? Another, very different study might shed light on this issue.

Perception Management

The purpose of another recent study was to examine three areas of father-daughter relationships — engagement, accessibility, and responsibility — within the context of daughters’ self-esteem, life satisfaction, and psychological distress. The researchers defined engagement as a father’s direct interaction with his child, accessibility as his physical or psychological availability, and responsibility as his provision for the care of the child (as distinct from performance of care). Each of these types of involvement directly relate to a child’s well-being, the researchers posited having reviewed literature on the subject. “What is important to the children in the long run and what most heavily affects children’s current and future behavior is the long term parent ‘residue’ within the children that is encapsulated within the children’s retrospective perceptions of their parents,” the authors wrote.

What is unique about this study, then, is that it is all about a daughter’s perception of her father’s involvement and not the facts of his involvement.

For the study, the researcher recruited female participants from general education classes at a public university in the western U.S. All participants were single females between the ages of 18 and 21 and the mean age for the participants’ fathers was 50.9. The students completed a 10-minute questionnaire during class time.

Overall, results supported the prediction that the retrospective perceptions of a father’s involvement have a moderately strong positive relationship with the self-esteem of emerging adult daughters. When emerging adult daughters’ retrospective perceptions of overall father involvement during adolescence are higher, the self-esteem of daughters is also higher. Additionally, there was a positive relationship between perceived levels of father involvement and the life satisfaction level of their daughters.

Yet, the researchers also addressed another component of psychological well-being in their study: psychological distress. In keeping with past studies, the researchers hypothesized that a negative relationship existed between psychological distress and perceptions of a father’s involvement. Contrary to what was expected, a negative correlation between perceptions of father involvement and the psychological distress of daughters existed, but it was statistically insignificant. Ultimately, the authors conclude that retrospective perceptions of nurturing fathering and expressive types of father involvement during adolescence might have strong relationships with self-esteem and life satisfaction of daughters in their young adult years.

Because these findings revolve around relationship perception and impact on a specific time of life, two things should be considered. First, since the actual accuracy of the father’s behavior does not matter and it is only a daughter’s perception that is significant, might optimistic daughters — those who see the possibly distant father as loving enough — be more inclined toward life satisfaction? If so, maybe we should all strive to see our fathers in as forgiving and positive a light as possible. Secondly, this study concerns a very specific period in a woman’s life. Perhaps over time, even those women with absent or truly unloving fathers find satisfaction in their lives as well and maybe even find an advantage in how their fathers shaped their lives.

Sources: Allgood SM, Beckert TE, Peterson C. The Role of Father Involvement in the Perceived Psychological Well-Being of Young Adult Daughters: A Retrospective Study.North American Journal of Psychology. 2012.

Byrd-Craven J, Auer BJ, Granger DA, Massey AR. The father-daughter dance: the relationship between father-daughter relationship quality and daughters’ stress response.Journal of Family Psychology. 2012.

Scheffler TS, Naus PJ. The relationship between fatherly affirmation and a woman’s self-esteem, fear of intimacy, comfort with womanhood and comfort with sexuality. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 1999.

Victoria Secunda addresses relationships with women and their fathers.

Victoria Secunda addresses relationships with women and their fathers.

SOURCE: Medical Daily. Click here. June 12, 2013

 The Importance of being a father

Studies demonstrate that healthy father-child relationships help children flourish when it comes to coping and adapting, solving problems, staying in school and developing longer lasting relationships. Involved dads also win, enjoying better overall health, higher self-esteem and a more positive self-image. “Studies show that when fathers are involved in the lives of their children, both parent and child win,” said Suzin Bartley, Executive Director of the Children’s Trust Fund. “All parents need and deserve the skills and support needed to be the best parent they can be. We applaud our dads on Father’s Day and throughout the year – they’ve got one tough job!”

It starts with getting involved

  • Start early. From the moment you know that you will be a father, you can be involved in your child’s life. If possible, go with your child’s mother to any doctor’s appointments, where you will be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, see a sonogram of the baby, and ask any questions. If you have not been around children, try to spend some time with family or friends with infants. Talk about the experience of having a baby with other dads, or pick up a book and find out what to expect – they’re not just for moms! It’s natural for first time parents to be worried. No one knows what they are doing the first time. There may be parenting, childbirth, or other classes for both parents or even specifically for dads in your community or through a local hospital. 
  • Be ready for change. Having a child brings financial, lifestyle, and other adjustments. Children are expensive – there’s no doubt about it! However, there are ways you can prepare for this. Find out from other fathers what some of the costs are that you can expect. Some places of work allow dads to take some time off around the birth of their child – ask what the policy is at your work. Start saving as soon as you know you are having a baby. Even if you are separated from your child’s mother, you should help support your child. Not only are you legally required to help support your child, but supporting your child also means being there to care for her daily needs. Talk to your child’s mother about how you will share the responsibility of caring for your child. Make sure that neither of you get overwhelmed, and take out some time for yourselves, as well.
  • Take on specific tasks. When it comes to taking care of your child, there are few specific roles for moms or dads. A good way of bonding with your child, beginning early on, is to decide on a few things that you will do with him. For example, you can give him a bath, read to him, or be part of the bedtime routine. You can choose one day a week to pick him up from school, or be the one to take him to certain activities.
  • Get involved. Whether you are a working father or you stay at home, whether you live with your child or apart from her, know what is going on in her life. Attend school events, know her activities and whereabouts, and help with homework. Be the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’ – be around for the fun times but also participate in disciplining your child and teaching her responsibilities and values.

 Source Nurturing Your Family Especially for Dads

CTF’s Fatherhood Initiative’s Ten Tips for being a Great Dad

1. Respect Your Child’s Mother.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 If you are married, keep your marriage strong and vital. If you aren’t married, it is still important to respect and support the mother of your children.

2. Spend time with your children.
How a father spends his time tells his children what’s important to him. By sharing time with your children, you tell them they are important to you.

3. Earn the right to be heard.
Too often a father only speaks to his children when they have done something wrong. Begin talking with your kids when they are young, praise them and take time to listen to their ideas and problems.

4. Discipline with love.
All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for good behavior.

5. Read to your children.
Begin reading to your children when they are very young. Instilling your children with a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they will have a lifetime of personal and career growth.

6. Show affection.
Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted and loved by their family. Parents, especially fathers, need to feel comfortable and willing to hug their children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your children know that you love them.

7. Eat together as a family.
Sharing a meal together can be an important part of family life. It gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and is a good time for fathers to listen and give advice.

8. Be a teacher and a role model.
A father will see his children make good choices because he has taught them about right and wrong and encouraged them to do their best. By demonstrating honesty, humility and responsibility, fathers can show their children what is important in life. A daughter who grows up with a loving father learns that she deserves to be treated with respect.

9. Realize that a father’s job is never done.
Even after children are grown and leave the home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Fathers continue to play an essential part in the lives of their children as they make decisions about education, jobs, marriage and starting their own families.

10. Reach out to other parents for support.
Discuss parenting with other parents – both moms and dads. Share ideas, solve problems, find out what other parents are doing to tackle issues of discipline, safety, and communication. Get to know the parents of your kid’s friends. Consider joining or starting a dads’ group in your area. You can learn a lot, find support and camaraderie and enjoy parenting more when you are friends with other parents.

Source: click here.