The Father-Daughter Relationship and Girls’ Body Confidence

Dove Self-Esteem Project | English

Dads shouldn’t back off during their daughters’ teenage years. In fact, when it comes to girls’ body-confidence, they may be needed now more than ever. Understanding the role her father plays is key.

From changing nappies to putting her hair in pigtails and teaching her how to cook, today’s dads are more involved than ever in the upbringing of their daughters. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Dr Linda Nielsen, expert on father-and-daughter relationships, writing in the College Student Journal, offers an explanation: “Throughout the 1950s, there was a growing concern that boys were becoming too feminine as a result of being raised by overly protective mothers… [so] fathers were urged to be more involved with their sons as a way of protecting the ‘manhood’ of the next generation.” Society often sent the message that mothers were best at raising daughters, while fathers should focus on their sons.

These days, it is increasingly common to see fathers at the school gate or pushing the buggy to playgroup. But what about when our little girls start turning into young women?

The importance of fathers in daughters’ lives during the teenage years

Although much investigation has focused on the mother-daughter bond in relation to girls’ body-confidence and self-esteem, a growing body of evidence underscores the importance of dads’ role in parenting girls.

Daughters of fathers who are emotionally distant are more likely to struggle with conflicts around food and weight, according to clinical psychologist and author Dr Margo Maine in her book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness.

Leading psychotherapist and author Dr Susie Orbach says: “The more a dad is involved in a hands-on way, from when she is a baby and a toddler, the more he will know her – and puberty and adolescence will be just one more phase like starting school. The less he is involved, the more he will be cautious around her and her body.”

As for those dads who haven’t had a great deal of interaction with their girls up until now, it’s never too late to start.

The role of a father when talking about puberty and sexuality

Even the most seasoned fathers can struggle and feel embarrassed when it comes to exploring certain issues with their daughters…

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