From the moment that a baby girl is born into the world, her father can have an amazing impact on her life. From the first time she wraps her tiny little hand around his finger to the time he walks her down the aisle and beyond, this man's presence, involvement, and character will help mold and shape her into the woman she will become.
She will look to this man with wonderment, and she has certain needs that only he can fulfill. Through the many interactions and experiences she has with him, incredible things are developing inside of her. Let's explore what takes place in her mind, emotions, and psyche through the powerful dynamics that occur between a father and a daughter.
The early years
Studies and statistics have shown just how important fathers are to all children in general, but this is especially true for little girls. Meg Meeker, M.D. in her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters lists the following facts:
- Toddlers securely attached to fathers are better at solving problems.
- Six-month old babies score higher on tests of mental development if their dads are involved in their lives.
- With dads present in the home, kids manage school stress better.
- Girls whose fathers provide warmth and control achieve higher academic success.
- Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety and withdrawn behaviors.
These statistics show how important involved fathers are to the mental and emotional development of their little girls. On Psych Central, Erika Krull, MS, LMHP posted a blog titled "Divorce – What Girls Miss When Dad Leaves the Home." She states, "Part of a girl's psyche is created by what her father reflects back to her. A girl needs to know that a man loves her, values her, will protect her, and will be dependable for her. It takes years for this influence to sink in and develop inside a girl. And this can't happen if her dad's not there much."
A little girl's first male relationship should be with her father. His affection and attention will help her feel cared for and loved. His gentle instruction, strength and leadership will help her feel secure. If he takes the time to talk and listen to her, she will feel that she is valued.
In Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Meg Meeker also states, "Fathers inevitably change the course of their daughters' lives – and can even save them. From the moment you set eyes on her wet-from-the-womb body until she leaves your home, the clock starts ticking. It's the clock that times your hours with her, your opportunities to influence her, to shape her character, and to help her find herself – and to enjoy living." A young girl needs a positive male influence in her life!
The teen years and beyond
When a girl becomes a teenager, a father's role remains very important. Meg Meeker lists more statistics in her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters:
- Parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol.
- Daughters who perceive that their fathers care a lot about them, who feel connected to their fathers, have significantly fewer suicide attempts and fewer instances of body dissatisfaction, depression, low self-esteem, substance use, and unhealthy weight.
- Girls with involved fathers are twice as likely to stay in school.
- A daughter's self-esteem is best predicted by her father's physical affection.
- Girls with a father figure feel more protected, have higher self-esteem, are more likely to attempt college, and are less likely to drop out of college.
- Girls with fathers who are involved in their lives have higher quantitative and verbal skills and higher intellectual functioning.
- Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.
- Fathers help daughters become more competent, more achievement-oriented, and more successful.
- Girls with involved fathers wait longer to initiate sex and have lower rates of teen pregnancy. Teen girls who live with both parents are three times less likely to lose their virginity before their sixteenth birthdays.
- 76 percent of teen girls said that fathers influenced their decisions on whether they should become sexually active.
- Girls who lived with their mothers and fathers (as opposed to mothers only) have significantly fewer growth and developmental delays, and fewer learning disorders, emotional disabilities, and behavior problems.
- Girls who live with their mothers only have significantly less ability to control impulses, delay gratification, and have a weaker sense of conscience or right and wrong.
A father's involvement in a daughter's life has a big impact on her sexual activity as reflected in the information above. Girls who do not get male attention and affection from their fathers will often turn to sex to fill this void and need. They are more at risk for becoming sexually active at a younger age and becoming pregnant. They are also more at risk for getting involved in an abusive relationship. A father's relationship with his daughter will often determine the kind of relationships she chooses.
Fathers can also have an effect on when their daughters enter into puberty. An article posted on Science Daily (September 27, 1999) titled "Father-Daughter Relationship Crucial to When Girls Enter Puberty, Researchers Say" told about a study that was conducted by Vanderbilt University researchers. It said, "The study looked at 173 girls and their families from Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee and Bloomington, Indiana from the time the girls were in pre-kindergarten until they were in the seventh grade.
Girls who had close, positive relationships with their parents during the first five years of life tended to experience relatively late puberty, compared to girls who had more distant relationships with their parents. More specifically, the researchers found that the quality of fathers' involvement with daughters was the most important feature of the early family environment in relation to the timing of the daughters' puberty.
Girls who entered 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. But it's the fathers' involvement, rather than the mothers', which seems to be paramount to the age of the girls' development."
Fathers also help build self-confidence in their daughters. Girls learn to regard themselves the way their fathers regard them. If they are given affection and positive attention, they feel a sense of worth. But if they are ignored, treated harshly, and never given positive feedback, it's hard for them to feel good about themselves.
Loving fathers help provide stability and moral guidance in the home. They care enough to help guide their daughters through the difficult teen years. Statistics show that their involvement really does make a difference in the areas of teenage pregnancies, substance abuse, and academic success.
A father can also affect his daughter's perception of God. If she has a loving, caring, involved father, she will more easily view God as a loving Father. But if her father is overly strict, cold, unloving, and distant, she may also view God this way. It's hard to see God as a loving father when you don't know what a loving father is.
A father is the most important man in a daughter's life according to Meg Meeker in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. She addresses fathers by telling them how they affect their daughters, "When she is twenty-five, she will mentally size her boyfriend or husband up against you. When she is thirty-five, the number of children she has will be affected by her life with you. The clothes she wears will reflect something about you. Even when she is seventy-five, how she faces her future will depend on some distant memory of time you spent together. Be it good or painful, the hours and years you spend with her – or don't spend with her – change who she is." There will be other important men in a girl's life, but her father's influence will last her whole life.
God is a father
Unfortunately, not all girls grow up in a home with a father. And some fathers, who are present in the home, are far from ideal. Many girls may feel disadvantaged, depressed, and angry that they don't or didn't have a loving father's guidance and influence in their lives. If you feel this way, let God be your Father.
God is a father to us all, but He has a special place in His heart for the fatherless. Psalm 68:5 tells us, "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation." If you cleave to God, he will be your Father. He will be the moral guide in your life, your provider, and your protector. He will listen and help you through the tough times. He cares for you and understands what you are going through. Reach out to God!
If you are a father and have the awesome responsibility of raising a daughter, be the positive masculine influence in her life that she needs you to be. Love, guide, protect, and be there for her. Be the kind of man you hope she will marry one day. Your relationship with her has far-reaching effects. Help her become the remarkable woman she was designed to be!
For more interesting reading view the Bible study guide, You Can Have Living Faith.