Crooner John Mayer sings the following advice in his song “Daughters”
“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too”
As it turns out, his guidance is more than just a catchy tune and has a sound basis in science. Research published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology from May 2017 finds that girls who receive higher quality fathering engage in less risky behavior than their peers. Using a clever research, method investigators studied pairs of adult sisters from either intact or broken families in which their age gap was at least four years—the idea being they would have had different experiences of their father, especially if he had separated from the family before the younger one reached maturity but would have controlled for the same mother. Girls who communicated well with their fathers and felt close to them experienced much more parental monitoring, hung out far less with sexually risk-prone peers and experienced less sexual risk-taking behavior including promiscuity, unprotected sex and sex while intoxicated. Interestingly, the impact was more pronounced for older sisters. The scientist explains, “The prolonged presence of a warm and engaged father can buffer girls against early high-risk sex.” She adds, “A silver lining is that what dad does seems to matter more than the parental separation.” Meaning that divorce itself may be less harmful for a girl than the experience of a bad dad.
So, how do we prevent the daddy issues of which John Mayer croons?
The answer lies in learning to emotionally support your daughter.
Dads may struggle with the expression of feelings (their own or their daughters) as males are raised to downplay emotions and often consider expressing emotion as “bad” or “hard.”
First, dads should acknowledge and accept their child’s need to express feelings. Dads instinctively may shut down open communication because they feel expressing unpleasant emotions may make their daughter feel worse. Dads should resist the urge to “put out a fire” and hush feelings with “that is silly” or “no big deal” and instead let them be spoken freely. Dads can improve their tolerance of emotional conversations and help to validate and provide empathy by learning a larger vocabulary for emotional words. Instead of using “good” or “bad” to describe feeling states a dad can empathize with a daughter by using more richly descriptive feeling words. Find a great resource for feeling words here: http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/assess/feelings.html
Getting more familiar with his own emotions, as well as his daughter’s will help a dad to observe and recognize changes in his daughter’s emotions, potential triggers, etc. and then help by modeling how to apply healthy coping techniques and strategies when feeling emotional.
As the above research mentioned, monitoring is a crucial parenting technique. Monitoring is knowing the who, what, where, when, why of your child’s life. Who is she hanging out with, what is upsetting/uplifting to her, where does she go, why is she feeling the way she is, what does she try to do to feel better, etc. are all important things for a parent to know.
Moms, too, may be relieved to hear divorce alone does not seem to be the kiss of death for raising a sexually promiscuous daughter. Moms who are not involved with their child’s biological father may use this research to encourage and support involvement between daughter and father, even through the most important (and awkward) teenage years lead to maturity.
About the Author:
Carrie is licensed and trained to provide individual, couple, and family therapy. Areas of interest include a variety of relationship issues including adult family conflict, family conflicts between parents and teens, relationship and marriage counseling, co-parenting following divorce, step-parenting, peer relationships, emotional regulation, anxiety, and depression. Specific training in Parent Management Training-Oregon (PMT-O Specialist); a behavior management technique for parents to utilize with children to prevent and reduce behavior issues in children age 7 to 17.
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- List of Feeling Words. http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/assess/feelings.html. June 9, 2017.
- Impact of Fathers on Parental Monitoring of Daughters and Their Affiliation with Sexually Promiscuous Peers: A Genetically and Environmentally Controlled Sibling Study.
DelPriore, Danielle J.; Schlomer, Gabriel L.; Ellis, Bruce J.
Developmental Psychology, May 08, 2017.
- The Link Between Detached Dads and Risk-Taking Girls. Konner, Melvin. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-link-between-distant-dads-and-risk-taking-girls-1496414606?cx_campaign=poptart&mod=cx_poptart#cxrecs_s