Thanks to my pop, I have a special love for sloppy joe burgers, cry at a number of sentimental commercials, and almost obsessively change my passwords on a regular basis. He's always held a special place in my heart, and I know my life wouldn't be the same without him. In fact, according to a new study, the benefits of a father-daughter relationship can have a profound impact on your life, and more specifically, your emotional well-being.
For the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Development and has been published online in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers from The Ohio State University asked nearly 700 families to keep track of their parent-child relationships over about a five-year period. Parents evaluated their relationships with their children when the kids were in first, third, fourth, and fifth grade, and the children were asked to rate their loneliness levels at each stage as well. According to ScienceDaily, the study found that having a strong bond with your father can really help you overcome feelings of loneliness, especially during those formative years.
And, BTW, this definitely isn't the first time research has shown the importance of a healthy father-daughter relationship: A 2012 study, also published in the Journal of Family Psychology, compared fathers who were unsupportive or who rejected their daughters, to fathers who loved and supported them, and found that a daughter's positive relationship with her father can both reduce her stress levels and improve the quality of her friendships outside the home.
Of course, this isn't to say that anyone without a traditional father figure in their life is automatically going to be a lonely person. According to Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a licensed counselor, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and author of the book Success Equations: A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life, it's not just the daughters who have a connection to their biological father, or even a male-identifying father, who can benefit from these relationship dynamics. Girls with families of all different makeups can certainly still be successful and confident, Campbell tells Elite Daily over email.
Now, as for how the 2018 study came to its conclusions about the effects of a father-daughter relationship on feelings of loneliness, Xin Feng, co-author of the research and an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, said the findings are likely influenced by traditional gender roles and the expectations that follow them. "In our society," he said in a statement, "mothers tend to be responsible for everyday care and stability for their children." In other words, mothers generally tend to have close relationships with their children, meaning the variable of a father is likely to have a different kind of impact on a child's well-being.
This isn't to say one parent is more "important" or influential than the other, but clearly, these relationships differ in terms of dynamics and the effects they can have on everyone involved. And the "father" role, whether it's filled by a father surrogate or a woman who has taken on that responsibility, seems to play a very unique part in a daughter's emotional development. "Fathers [seem to] have more freedom to interact with their children in different ways," Feng said, adding that father figures can "challenge [the child] and have a wider range of emotional contact."
That being said, Dr. Campbell suggests that there's also something unique in the relationship between a male-identifying father (or father figure) and his daughter. Healthy interactions with a positive father figure, she explains, help to teach the daughter about how to have healthy relationships with other men in general. "Girls who are treated well by their fathers know their place in relationships with men, how they should expect to treated, and what they will and will not tolerate," Campbell tells Elite Daily.
For those who don't have a relationship with their biological father, Carol Tuttle, author of the book The Child Whisperer, and host of The Child Whisperer Podcast, says that finding a mentor to fill that role can be extremely helpful in developing a healthy sense of self. "Finding a healthy male mentor can be found in the form of a life coach, a common interest that you pursue — for example sports [or] a hobby — a business mentor, or even a healthy ecclesiastical leader if you are a religious person," Tuttle tells Elite Daily over email.
Whatever form this father figure takes for you, Tuttle says it's crucial to make sure there is always a sense of mutual respect between the two of you: "It is our relationship with our parents that becomes the biggest influence on whether we have a positive self-esteem and believe we are lovable."