How Fathers Influence Daughters

A girl’s father is one of the most influential people in her life, from infant to toddler to tween to teen. Learn why Dad has such a big impact on his little girl’s development into a strong, confident woman.

dad and daughter

A father's influence in his daughter's life shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men. "How Dad approaches life will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world," says Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood - Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy.

"What matters in the father-daughter relationship is that Dad seeks to live a life of integrity and honesty, avoiding hypocrisy and admitting his own shortcomings, so that she has a realistic and positive example of how to deal with the world. He should try to model a reflective approach to life's big questions so that she can seek to do the same," he adds.

Dads and daughters: From infant to toddler

We now live in a culture where Dad is an equal partner in care giving. From day one, dads are encouraged to be hands-on, changing diapers, giving baths, putting Baby to sleep and calming her cries. That presence and effort is the beginning of a very important relationship.

"Dads need to spend time with their infant daughter."

According to Austin, this quality time together is crucial at all stages of a girl's life. "Dads need to spend time with their infant daughter, taking care of her physical needs and supporting her Mom," he explains. And once the little lady starts toddling around, "[i]t's essential that Dad gets down on the floor — on her level — and plays with her," Austin says.

Fathers and daughters: From tween to teen

It's those pesky "hormonal" years that can often have dads shying away from their moody and sometimes standoffish daughter. When there's a tween girl in the house, "[d]ads should focus on cultivating a trusting relationship so that their daughters feel secure talking with them about what's going on in their lives," Austin explains. "When necessary, dads should apologize and ask for forgiveness, as this both shows respect and love to our daughters and heals the hurts that are inevitable in daily life together."

As a girl continues to grow and her teen years become fraught with complicated issues, dads should continue to work on building a trusting relationship, give affection and support her as she learns more about who she is and what kind of person she wants to become, Austin says. "It's imperative that, no matter what, dads avoid the temptation to pull away or withdraw during this sometimes challenging stage of growing up."

A father's influence on a daughter's self-image

A dad's involvement in his daughter's life is a crucial ingredient in the development of a young woman's self-esteem. Austin identifies positive elements of "common sense" parenting for dads so they can help support their daughter's self-image and curb any possibility of low self-esteem: Verbal encouragement, being consistently present in her life, being alert and sensitive to her feelings, taking time to listen to her thoughts and taking an active interest in her hobbies. "It's important to actually do these things, which can sometimes be quite challenging," Austin adds. Direct involvement and encouragement by her father will help diminish a girl's insecurity and increase her confidence in her own abilities.

How dads influence their daughter's relationships

The type of men that women date and have long-term relationships with are also directly related to the kind of relationship a girl has with her father. Obviously, the hope is that the father figure in a girl's life will aim to skew that young lady's opinions of men in a positive way. "He must, first and foremost, treat his daughter with respect and love. Whether or not he is married to or still together with his daughter's mom, showing respect to her mother is essential as well," explains Austin. "He must also value women as human beings, and not as persons to be used. Daughters will see what their dads believe about women by how they value and respect women, or by how they fail to do so."

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Comments on "The importance of the father-daughter relationship"

jim January 28, 2014 | 7:27 AM

My daughter is 15 and a bedwetter and wears cloth diapers and plastic pants to bed every night so i have to be especially supportive of her.we have a great relationship and keep her bedwetting low key.she has told me numerous times that she feels like a baby wearing the diapers and plastic pants to bed and i have told her that she is a young women and that this is just a temporary bump in the road and that there is nothing to be ashamed about,that there are many kids in the country who are bedwetters so she is not alone.

Gerard January 20, 2014 | 2:40 AM

@Jean and @Kevin... As a father of 3 daughter, the oldest who is now turning 12 years, I am sickened and angered by what others deem "appropriate or not" simply because that is their personal opinion and now they want to force such opinions as binding on others. I have been previously married and have my oldest daughter with my ex, but I was granted custody of her and I have been raising my daughter since she was 1 year and about 6 months old. I did this on my own for a long time until meeting my current wife. All 3 my daughters (the others are 8 year old twins) jump at the chance to get into bed next to me and there are NO ual ideas or behaviour between us. In fact whenever they are afraid of anything, they run to me. Whenever they are ill they turn to me. I wash and blow their hair, buy them clothes and even their underwear. Recently I had to buy my oldest daughter her first bra and what do you know... it was a perfect fit! Just the other day after showering she called me into the bathroom because she was concerned about a rash she noticed between her breasts. She stood there nude, I just had a look and told her it was nothing to worry about then left. NO awkwardness at all! I have never had a father in my life so I made a decision very early on in my life (while still being in high school to give you an idea how early I am speaking about) to always be in my future children's lives and to never abandon them as I have been. I also play a very active role in EVERY aspect of their lives. My oldest recently spent Xmas holidays at her mom's place and before she left I explained to her mom that she needs to be prepared since my our daughter showed indications that she would be getting her first period soon... and what do you know.... 3 days later she got her period. And her mom COMMENDED me for being "a truly wonderful father". During this first period my daughter spoke to me on the phone saying that she was a bit afraid and she was crying, but after I spoke to her she immediately calmed down. By the way I was the one who spoke to her early on during her development about the body changes she will experience and what to expect especially during her first period. THAT IS HOW INVOLVED I AM and is that what others would now deem inappropriate? My point is I have been actively involved in all my daughter's lives and I am absolutely proud of the relationships I have with my girls. And because if that my daughters are already comparing other fathers to me they see me as their absolute hero who would be able to get them through any situation... even walking through a war zone with me (just an example of what my oldest daughter once said to me). I also need to mention that it was only since about 3 months ago that my ex was allowed to have my oldest daughter with her unsupervised after more than 9 years and all that time I have been the one directly taking up the responsibility of raising her. Yes I have a current wife now and she has helped but even so there are things even she was not comfortable dealing with which I had to do with all my daughters. But I have made it very clear in the beginning when we just started dating that I will be the one to do what has to be done for my daughter as she already has her own mother and loyalty is deeply ingrained into my very being so even though my daughters biological mom could not always be around, I reserved that role AND TITLE of "Mommy" strictly for the bio mom. I also made it clear back then my daughter will always come first no matter what. Both my ex and my current wife respect me for my firm stance and also for the relationship I was able to forge with my daughters.

Anthony January 15, 2014 | 6:02 PM

Been there with two daughters. The article is pretty much bang on. Well done.

Jean October 30, 2013 | 9:48 PM

Kevin, I am sorry that you may dominate the females in your life and you are not grounded and lack common sense about the importance of mothers. It is so typical for men to attack women, when we express our opinions. You all are pathetic! But since you feel the need to make up lies about me, and attack my family members, who you know not a thing about, I can be nasty and attack your family too. But I am not as evil as you and some of the others, so I will not make personal attacks. I am sorry that you have a need to control your daughter and dominate your wife to the point that she cannot have a say in your daughter's life. You seem like a cold hearted man. I shared these articles with my family and friends. I am more well adjusted than you and all the other attacking arrogant males on this site who got their pants in a bunch, because a female did not bow down to them. Listen fellas, every female is not afraid to expresss her voice and tell you all the truth that men do not control their daughters' and That is so ludicrous. I grew up in a family of psychologists and one counselors, and a pediatrician and all are well adjusted. They told me to ignore your foolishness, but I just had to let you know that you are still misguided. All the men in my family and my circle have been laughing at the idea that some of you men can actually be that arrogant and ignorant about the father daughter relationship. One of my relatives even commented the a father can not try to dominate and control a daughter, because he may begin to cross unhealthy boundaries. A dad will never be more important than her mother. Now since you want to suggest this, let us go on a bit further and say that mom is more inportant to the daughter, but some men have started a trend to brainwash females and make thembeieve this doctrine. It is still absolutely false, no matter how long you cry and whine. As far as the comment that Jean came to pick a fight, that could not be further from the truth. What woman wants to waste her time typing comments to a bunch of arrogant, woman hating, disrepectful men, whose feel threatened because one female challenged them in their belief of male dominance. If any of you feel inadequate about you manhood, don't take it out on mothers.

Alan Bennett October 29, 2013 | 3:55 AM

My relationship with each of my daughters is unique to each one. Some need more closeness with me than others, some feel the need for friendship more than others. I make my relationship with each of my daughters congruent to her needs and her own likes, dislikes and personality, sort of compartmentalizing, in that they're each different in some ways, than their sisters. Getting through the teenage years was the hardest, because I, like many fathers are, was over protective when it came to boys. I did not choose their boyfriends, but was noted to be verbal about whether I thought they were good for them or not; most times I was right. My daughters seem to gravitate towards me, more than towards their mom, when it comes to advice about schooling, finances, relationships, etc, and they go to mom to discuss the "womanly things" that I profess to know nothing about the physical nature of women with respect to the "private things" that only moms can teach about. I have a healthy relationship with each of my daughters. They not only consider me as "dad", but as their friend, too, because I encourage them to communicate, and give them freedom to discuss anything they wish to with me, no taboo's. We spend "father/daughter" time when we can.. We go to lunch or breakfast, go shopping together, or just sit and talk. I think my girls feel I'm very important to them and want me in their lives even though they're all grown up and married now and have their own children. They still say they need their dad. I don't think I'm more important to them than their mom is, but I'm more active with them, and that holds a lot of water with them.

Kevin October 09, 2013 | 6:10 AM

@Jean, For you to seek out and read an online article talking about father-daughter relationships and be filled with such vile and hatred shows that you have most likely had bad experiences with men (esp your father). I am sorry for that. Not all men are created equal. Maybe if your father was more involved in your life you wouldn't feel such hatred towards men. My daughter is only 7 months old and I cannot wait until I can take her on dates and be there for her when she's hurt. I look forward to parenting a son, as well, if that happens. But there is something special about the father-daughter relationship. No one is saying it is more important than a mother-daughter relationship, but still important. Why are you so angry? Listen, you are a parent and you can parent however you want to -- but you are fooling yourself and doing your daughters a serious disservice if you do not think their father plays an important role in their social and emotional development. I pray for you and your daughters, and I hope that one day you realize how important a role a father plays in their daughters life. Have you taken the time to ask your daughters how they feel about their dad, or what kind of relationship they would like to have with him? If not, I think you should -- you might just be surprised.

Jean October 02, 2013 | 2:56 PM

First of all, the father IS NOT, the most important parent in the daughter's life. He is the most important parent in the son's life. He is not the same gender as the daughter. He cannot model situations, nor can he speak about how a female feels, mentally, physically, and psychologically. He can talk to her and guide her and tell her how boys and men feel. Man made doctrines such as the one about the dad being the most important parent is a myth and is wrong. The same gender parent is the most important parent to the child. And no, a father is not the daughter's first love in relation to "first loves". The dad gets a totally different kind of love from the daughter. Do not try to make dad be a partner to their daughter. That is where we go wrong. Mom is the appropriate parent to tell the daughter all she needs to know about how she is to be around boys and men. Dad will not tell the whole truth because let's face it, he is still a man and will be loyal to his gender and will not want to come down hard with the truth on the evils of men. . how she should be treated by a man can come from both parents. What the dad needs to do is let their daughter see him spend loving, quality time with his wife and not be hanging around the daughter all the time. There is such a thing as boundaries between the genders, you know Another point is, from what I have observed and heard, both parents are important to the daughter AND the son. The mother guides the daughter a little more, just as the dad has more to give the son than the mom. Lastly, I received more guidance and direction from my mom, so did my sisters. We loved our dad, but it was important to look to both of them for discusions. Our mom is the one that told us all the stuff that boys and men try to do to girls and women. It was not uncomfortable because she had to get into intimate talk about our breasts and vaginas. That would have not worked with dad. No way.

Neill Johnston September 16, 2013 | 3:07 PM

"How Fathers Influence Daughters" It IS, very important to both Father and Daughter, to have a GREAT Father/Daughter relationship, and a relationship that CAN be throughly developed for HER. THAT IS, understandable, but, BUT, as she grows elder, that Father/Daughter relationship has been developed, YET, at the same time, it DOES also appear, that the Father/Daughter relationship that she carries with her, then turns from a Father/Daughter relationship, into a Child Like, Father's little Daughter, and a Husband relationship. Is this NOT supposed to be a FULL FLEDGED ADULT WOMAN, and a Full FLEDGED ADULT MAN relationship, instead. Like c'mon, really now. She demands that SHE wants and ADULT in HIM. Ok then, then HE also HAS the LEGIT RIGHT to ALSO demand that SHE, be a an ADULT WOMAN, and that SHE, also NOT be a CHILD.

Law July 16, 2013 | 10:58 AM

In theory, a dad will give the daughter the "low-down" on men. A mother will give the son the "low-down" on women. A dad can show a son how to interact with women and love a woman by how he treats the mother. A mum can show a daughter how to interact with men and love a man by how she treats the father. This is assuming it's a loving home and both parents subscribe to the notion of balanced human beings and are in agreement what constitutes a balanced human being. But even in the absence of a single home, BOTH parents are still needed to provide an even-sided picture of life. If one parent is not willing or able, that's a different story. IMHO

Natalie June 28, 2013 | 8:42 AM

I have to say that I personally like this article for the very fact that it demonstrates how fathers can be nurtures and not just providers to their children. I have been reading the comments, and it is clear to see that there are differences of opinion concerning what parent is more important to each of the child. Like many of you that believes that both parents are important for the child, I agree with this. I don't believe that saying a father is the most important parent in a daughters life should be taken to be ist and worshiping the father over the mother, but I do believe that they just like the mother hold a significant role in a daughters and sons life. My parents split up and divorced when I was entering my adolescent years, and my sister and I stayed and were raised by my mother since then. I truly love and admire my mother because she taught me how to be independent and to work hard in this life. With this being said, throughout my teen years I didn't really have my father present in my life, and looking back now that I'm in my early 20's I would really liked to have him more present so he could help deal with issues about boys, , and drugs. But mainly help me to love myself and respect myself. I believe that a father is not the most important parent in a daughters life but he is definitely plays a significant role just like the mother would. But of course I understand that just because a child may have both parents present in their life does not mean that they aren't harmful, and my heart really does go out to all children who have to experience not so great upbringing.

dpxoxo June 24, 2013 | 7:54 PM

Kudos to Elizabeth-Weiss-McGolerick for this piece it touched me deeply. @Jean - Your comments saddened me for you. It's apparent that you missed out on how special the connection between fathers and daughters are, or could be at least. My dad was the first man I loved, he taught me how to love and respect myself. He showed me what an honorable man is, by the way he loves and adores my mom. He taught me the difference between loving yourself first vs. seeking love outside yourself which always leads to your own suffering. My mom taught me many things as well, the most significant was teaching me how to love a man and how to be a mom, without both of them I could not be the mother I am today.

Damien June 10, 2013 | 2:16 PM

Britt - awesome stuff. My little girl is only 2, but I'm going to take note of what you wrote. Jean - sorry, you're off the planet. "Jean's kids" - if you happen to be reading this, I have something to say to you. If you ever wondered if Mom was crazy - well, yep - she is! For your own good, take everything that she says with a pinch of salt and run any of her advice past a "responsible" adult before you act on it. I'm sure that she loves you... but that doesn't mean she isn't a twit.

gensece May 29, 2013 | 4:47 PM

wow... looks like jean came to fight with everyone! no one called her foolish, but she immediately took offense... i'd just like to point out that a dad could have taught Jean not to take such great offense to EVERYTHING... some dads suck... and some moms suck... parents do the best they can, i think... but in terms of teaching a girl how to face the world with a positive easy-going attitude, no one does it like dad. moms (especially single moms) teach you survival in the world... dads teach you how to be a part of the world, how to accept and treat with ppl. you need both of them. they are both EQUALLY important. none is more important than the next. i can tell you, though, that i can point out the influential parent in almost every girl i know! the role of both parents is equally important! but wen parents fail at their roles, it's up to the individual (especially in adulthood) to stop laying blame, and trust in God to help them make correct decisons! peace!

Cody May 07, 2013 | 6:58 AM

Jean you are a wicked person. I suggest you have someone else teach your daughter how to interact with people, because clearly you fail in that department.

Britt(proud father) May 04, 2013 | 9:02 PM

i hug my 16 yr old daughter everyday, i dont over cheerlead, i talk about boys, drugs and drinking every week. I tell her how great her mom is. I tell her to be kind to her younger brother.. ..he is a great guy and looks up to you. I tell her to choose her friends wisely. ask your friends how their doing.. ..dont talk about yourself all the time. I am brutelly honest with her.. ..too much make up, that out fit looks good or bad on you(Im in the clothing business).. ..she has developed a thick skin and loves my honesty. I tell her that the one person in this world that cares the most about her is herself. I never tell her she gifted or naturally good at something. she has a 90 average in school because she decided to do that, she studied, she prioritized. She is on the podium consistantly in sports because she trained her ass off. I will pick you up at a party when you need a ride home but I will not drive you to the mall to go shopping. I will not give you money to go shopping.. I will never buy you a cel phone, buy it yourself. I will help you with your resume. She got a job last summer at 15 and is very proud of herself. I tell her she will leave this house in 2 short yrs when she goes to university(if she chooses). I am simply preparing her for the real world.. ...I am so proud of her, she is an incredible girl.. ..I love her so much and never want her to grow up and leave our house. Britt Stevens

Jean March 07, 2013 | 10:26 PM

@ Kay, take your own chill pill and stay out of the conversation if you can't comment with respect. In the first place, a decent person, doesn't jump into a conversation to correct another grown person. When people do that it shows a character defect. You need to back up, and I mean way up!!

Kay March 07, 2013 | 11:27 AM

@ Jean, Take a Chill Pill. Just because you don't agree with someone's view of their own dad doesn't give you the right to stand on your soap box and tell everyone why a mom is the most important one. BOTH parents made the child BOTH parents should be equally important. Obviously one child is going to gravitate more towards one parent (most do). But that doesn't mean that he/she is more important. The are plenty of "daddy's girls" and "mama's boys" out there. It all depends on how that child is raised. Just because you may have had a better more trusting relationship with your mother, doesn't mean that applies to all children.

Jean January 30, 2013 | 3:20 PM

@Quinn, who are you calling foolish? You cannot tell women and girls how to feel about their dad. Every family is different. My man is not more important than me, when it comes to my girls. What i say to my girls is just as important and necessary as what their dad says to them. In fact, there are some topics that dad has no business talking with them about and they would not want to tell him certain things. So stop trying to change the rules for girls in our country. And if you cannot comment without calling people names, like foolish, you need to take your behind somewhere else.

Quinn January 29, 2013 | 11:50 PM

I agree that a father is the absolute most important man in a daughters life. Children NEED both mother & father. It's foolish to think a daughter needs guidance from her mother and the father should just take care of the son. I'm sorry but that's not how things work, in order for both son and daughter to be successful in life and be confident in their self they need different things from their mom and dad.

Jean January 18, 2013 | 11:46 AM

Again I say, "A dad is not the most important person in a girl's life." Her mother is the number one parent in her life and the dad is the number one parent for the son, in that he needs to be teaching that son how to respectfully treat women. A mother just as much, teachers her daughter about men. In fact, a daughter prefers to speak with mom, sisters and other female leaders about men, not dad. We need to stop exalting dads over moms. It makse the next generation disregard the mom. That is so sad.

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