Dad - a girl’s first and most influential love
From a blog by the Institute of Family Studies
Timothy Rarick, Ph.D., is a father of three daughters and a professor of Marriage, Family, & Child Development at Brigham Young University – Idaho. Dr. Rarick has spoken all over the world regarding the importance of father-daughter relationships.
He shares a portion of the evidence demonstrating the remarkable potential of the father-daughter relationship and the disastrous consequences for all when it is ignored.
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. 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, clinical depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, 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 -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, substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy, and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.
Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.
Sadly, many adolescent girls in our sexualized Western world today find themselves in a tragic predicament. 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.
In other words, fathers can and should be their daughter’s “first love”. 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.”
This truth has tremendous implications not just for fathers and daughters, but for society at large.
Read the full article here
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