We’ve all heard the term “daddy issues” to explain a woman’s needy and sometimes self-destructive behavior. These women let themselves be mistreated by men because they so desperately ache for male attention. Many of us know women like this, and unfortunately, some of us have been this kind of woman. Reality television in particular seems to thrive off of these emotional and psychological problems. So many shows are based on women fighting for the affections of some washed-up loser. We watch their humiliation with our mouths agape and say, “damn, that girl has some serious daddy issues.
But what exactly does that mean? Why do we automatically assume that these women have troubled relationships with their fathers? There seems to be some universal understanding that strong father-daughter relationships are crucial to the development of self-esteem. But despite this unspoken understanding, we don’t often hear about the importance of father figures for young women. We mostly hear about father-son and mother-daughter relationships. In fact, there is very little research devoted to father-daughter relationships. I couldn’t find any research on this issue in the Latino community.
Young women need men in their lives who value them as human beings. They need men who don’t show any sexual interest in them. If a girl does not have strong male role models, her only meaningful interactions with men might be solely based on sex. She may feel that her body is all she has to give to the world. This is a terrible foundation for her self-esteem, development, and future romantic relationships
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The importance of father-daughter relationships is even manifested through biology. A1999 study conducted by Vanderbilt University followed 173 girls and their families from the time the girls were in pre-kindergarten until they were in the seventh grade and found that “girls who enter puberty later generally had fathers who were active participants in care-giving; had fathers who were supportive to the girls’ mothers; and had positive relationships with their mothers.” It was the fathers’ involvement, rather than the mothers’ that was principal factor in the age of development.
Similarly, researchers from University of California, Berkeley, found that “girls who live in homes without a biological father physically mature sooner than those who live with their biological father.” Their relationships with their fathers can literally prevent them from getting pregnant. The paper suggests that this may be because unrelated men in the home “give off pheromones that set off the girls’ biological clocks.”
Unfortunately, in some cultures and previous generations, many fathers didn’t show their children affection. Their role was simply to provide for their family. When I was growing up, I sometimes wished for more affection from my father. Though I don’t blame him for my bad choices, I think that I sometimes stayed in unhealthy relationships because I really longed for attention.
But I now understand that the reason my father was distant was because of the culture in which he was raised. I don’t begrudge him for it. Now that I’m older, my father has taken a renewed interest in me and our relationship has been strengthened. I am grateful for this because I know that it has improved my self-esteem, even as an adult. I have a newfound appreciation for my dad.
Research also shows that father-daughter relationships are improving. According to studies, married fathers are now spending more time with their children than married fathers of previous generations. Our culture seems to be demanding that fathers participate more in their children’s lives. Though the research is lacking, everyone seems to agree that these relationships are critical. That’s why the term “daddy issues” is so prevalent. Fathers, please know that showing your daughters unconditional love is crucial to how they will navigate the world as women.