We've all heard the phrase "daddy issues." It's a seemingly innocuous phrase, but actually perpetuates stereotypes that women who have poor relationships with their father, or no relationship with them at all, are so-called damaged goods. It's gross. Usually, people throw around the phrase to mean that a woman has a neglectful or absent father, or an unhealthy relationship with him, and dates men to fill that "vacancy" in her life. So, is "daddy issues" an offensive term? Absolutely. Here's what two therapists had to say about where this phenomenon comes from and what the connection really is between a dad's behavior toward his daughter and her own romantic or sexual habits.
Walfish says that for women who date men, the way a daughter is treated by her father is how she "expects and accepts treatment from men in her romantic relationships," for women who date men. Brown agrees. He explains, "[A daughter] notices how her dad and her mom interact, and what she observes may very well determine the type of man/men she chooses to date."
Brown mentions the "pejorative" connotation that the phrase has, noting its "judgment" and "shame."
"I think it might be healthier for everyone to at least consider finding other ways to express the fact that almost all of us have unresolved issues with one or both of our parents," he says. "There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect children."
Walfish echoes Brown's statement.
"Truth be told, we can’t help the family histories we come from," Walfish says. "Nor can we deny that people tend to categorize even when they are open-minded and fair folks. We all need to do our best at constantly looking within and being accountable for our own ideas, thoughts, judgments, actions, and words."
Beth*, 23, had a close bond with her father growing up, but their relationship suffered when her dad cheated on her mom and left the family. In middle school and high school, Beth only saw her dad a couple days a month.
"To me the term [is] more so used to talk about all sorts of emotional hangups," Beth says. "I guess I don't see it as good or bad, but rather a part of my reality."
Beth uses the phrase "daddy issues" in conversation with her friends, and uses it "for a laugh" to talk about her strained relationship with her father.
"However, on a much more real note, I definitely feel my poor relationship with my dad during crucial adolescent years has limited my ability to comfortably connect with romantic partners and, most importantly, it makes it very difficult for me to trust them," Beth tells Elite Daily. "I think that I have a hard time trusting potential partners because I have an inherent belief that most romantic partners will act selfishly. In a more day-to-day sense, I think it has stunted my emotional intimacy. I have the strongest flight-or-fight response to getting close to a partner emotionally."
On the other hand, Beth finds physical intimacy and one-night stands easier to handle, and she enjoys the lack of emotional depth she has to deal with in relationships that are purely physical.
These days, Beth is working on mending her relationship with her dad. While that's not the best choice for everyone, it's working for her.
"I have only in the past two years or so begun to really try to reconnect and communicate with him," she says. "I will say that with the improvement in our relationship, I have been able to connect better with potential partners. Do I still have horrifying trust issues? Absolutely. Am I working on it? You bet. Every day, it all gets a little better."
*Name has been changed at the source's request.