My dad was a workaholic, hardly took the time to play ball with us, but we were happy we had him, there were those few times when he got the chance he would hang out with us boys, but hardly with our sister.
There is a widespread misconception that father as a parent impacted his sons, but there was no emphasis especially for daughters.
The father-son relationship is universally seen as important – the world is aware that a boy needs a positive male role model as he grows into a man. However many see a girl’s relationship with her father as secondary to her bond with her mother.
Here’s a little-known fact: for both boys and girls, the relationship with the opposite-sex parent has the profoundest of bearings on whether or not we grow up to be happy, serene, healthy, fulfilled individuals.
The way in which her father interacted with her as she was growing up is a major factor in how a woman’s nervous system is wired, which in turn impacts her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, her self-image, her view of the world, and the ease – or otherwise – with which she loves and trusts as a woman.
The first man every female bonds with is her father, and that imprints on her so strongly that any later relationships with men – including romantic ones – are filtered through that experience.
It was very obvious that when dad spent any time at all with our sister you could see the gleam in her eyes, she naturally gravitated to men, it was obvious to us too that she hated the kitchen and envied our playing time and time spent with dad. It is then true that if fathers neglected to let their daughters know how special and valuable they are, they will attract similar relationships with men in their adult life, because the woman will be unaware of how she is to be treated by a man.
Psychologist Dr Linda Nielsen has been studying the father-daughter relationship for over 15 years. Like researchers before her, she acknowledges that positive fathering produces well-adjusted, confident and successful daughters who relate well to the men in their lives.
“The quality of a daughter’s relationship with her father is always affecting her relationships with men – either in good ways or in bad ways,” writes Dr Nielsen. “When a woman doesn’t trust men, can’t maintain an ongoing relationship, doesn’t know how to communicate, or is co-dependent, this is probably because her relationship with her father lacked trust and/or communication.”
Nielsen also writes that a poorly fathered daughter may be, “too clingy, dependent and jealous. She smothers men and ruins the relationship. Or she is very distant, untrusting and emotionally cold and thus ruins her relationship. The list is endless.”
Indeed it is. And as a further illustration of the profound impact this relationship has on a daughter, not only are girls who have positive relationships with their fathers less likely to develop eating disorders, and vice versa. Research has also shown that such girls are likely to enter puberty later.
Likewise, when a father is absent, distant or the relationship is not supported, a daughter is much more likely to experience an early onset of menstruation. Why? Because when a girl is not getting the attention and affirmation she so desperately needs from her father, puberty is triggered prematurely in an unconscious – and heartbreaking – attempt to attract the attention of other men, instead.
For her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, a girl needs to know that she is important and visible to her father, loved by him, and special to him. Where his manner of relating to her deviates from this is where the problems start.
Our childhood experiences – good or bad – literally hard-wire our brains, and much of the wiring takes place in our earliest years.
When a father is generally disapproving, distant and/or abusive (whether physically or verbally) towards his daughter, this is literally wired into her psyche.
In fact, it’s been established that from birth to around the age of six, children automatically “download” all their parents’ words, thoughts and deeds into their unconscious minds. There is no filter. “Good” or “bad”; intentional or unintentional – whatever the child is exposed to is absorbed into their unconscious, and anything that is repeatedly placed there becomes part of the very fabric of it.
This is why girls will mistake their fathers’ issues for their own – if their father doesn’t relate to them with love, they’ll assume they must therefore not be loveable.
This is not a doom article, it is just to make us aware of what does happen to a woman when not supported in a healthy way by her father. You may after reading this say, ops! Once you have that moment you are well on your way because we are not robots, once we acknowledge there could be an issue, we have the mind to correct it.