5    Mar 20130 comments

Family: Fathers, daughters

A new study on the relationships of fathers and daughters shines a light on important family experiences.

We see – and say – such descriptions as “she’s definitely a daddy’s girl.” But what does it really mean? Are there differences in the relationships between sons or daughters and their fathers?

According to a study at Baylor University, 43 fathers and 43 daughters, not related to each other, were asked to write about a crucial moment of change in their own father-daughter relationships. The daughters were at least age 22, and the fathers were ages 45-70. Also included were adoptive and step-family relationships.

Most often mentioned by daughters were activities with their fathers, their marriages and physical distance from their fathers. Fathers most often mentioned joint activities, a daughter’s marriage and her beginning to date.

Other important times noted by the participants were adolescence, a family crisis, divorce, giving birth, entering elementary school, high school graduation and others. Shared activities most frequently mentioned were sports, working together and vacationing together.

The daughters’ views

Sports were seen as activities in which the girls learned to compete, take risks and stand up for themselves and were a chance to be the center of their father’s attention.

“It made me feel really important,” one woman wrote. Another said that “I used to love it when my dad would take off work to come coach my softball team.”

Another life-changing shared activity was working together.

“Growing up, I didn’t see much of my dad because he was at the office,” one daughter wrote. But through working together, “now I know him on so many different levels.”

The third most mentioned activity was vacationing.

“The first time I really talked with my dad, I was 6 years old. We took a road trip together and talked about everything,” one woman wrote.

The study also provided insight into marriage and leaving home, both of which changed the father’s relationship because he was no longer the protector, provider or other roles.

The fathers’ views

Shared activities, like sports, were most mentioned because it provided a bond the daughter did not have with her mother or siblings. It also opened communication to talk about other things. Fathers also mentioned teaching their daughters to drive - which can be a harrowing experience for both!

Marriage was the second most mentioned point.

Said one father: “She became dependent on her husband instead of me, and I determined not to interfere to the point of driving a wedge between her husband and me.” On the flip side, one father said that being involved in her daughter’s wedding plans gave him a reason to talk regularly to her.

The same Baylor researcher also conducted a study on the mother-son relationship, considered the most understudied family relationship type.

What were your most memorable moments with your father? If you are a parent, what is your relationship with your daughter? How do you think these relationships impact family history?

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