URJHS Volume 8

URC

The Perceived Influence of a Father on His Daughter’s Development

Caitlin Goossen
The Master's College


Abstract

According to research conducted by Nielsen, “fathers generally have as much or more influence than mothers on many aspects of their daughters’ lives. For example, the father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy and relate well to the males in her life …well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters …Daughters with good relationships with their father are also less likely to develop eating disorders” (2007, ¶ 12). The purpose of this study was to determine what, if any, influence a father has on his daughter’s development. The survey instrument requested demographic data in addition to seven Likert-type scale questions and was distributed to the students enrolled in The Master’s College during the spring 2009 semester. STATPAK was used to examine the data collected, and the One-Dimensional Chi-square test used to interpret the data. All responses were significant at the .05 significance level. The conclusions of this research indicate that a father does have influence over his daughter in many areas, including body image and sexuality.

Introduction

Is a father a key figure in his daughter’s development? “The role of a father’s absence on the reproductive and psychological behavior of their daughters has been a subject of considerable interest from a developmental, psychological, sociological and evolutionary perspective” (Comings, Muhleman, Johnson, & MacMurry, 2002, p. 1046). It seems for many girls that “inevitably our fathers determine how we view the opposite sex, the outside world and ourselves” (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, Conclusion section, ¶ 1). Further, “the bond between father and daughter is one of the strongest in the world...[and] if the father and mother are the right role models, the daughter will grow into an independent young woman” (Norment & Chappell, 2003).

A Father’s Influence and Involvement

The relationship between a father and his daughter is in jeopardy. “In one recent study only thirty percent of fathers believed that active involvement in their daughter’s life was vital to her health and well being” (Roper Poll, 2004). Following this cultural norm, fathers seem to spend more time talking with, giving advice to, and sharing more with their sons (Nielsen, 2007, ¶ 9). Also, in a study of college women conducted over a 15-year period, Nielsen found that her subjects wished that their relationship with their father was emotionally and personally closer so they could more closely and comfortably communicate about such personal issues as marital problems and divorce, drug and alcohol use, financial matters, depression, eating disorders, and sex before marriage (2007, Results section, ¶ 7-8).

Coming, Muhleman, Johnson, and MacMurry proposed that “girls exposed to a stressful environment, especially when due to father absence in the first 7 years of life, showed an early onset of puberty, precocious sexuality, and unstable relationships as adults” (2002, p. 1046). The authors were attempting to relate these challenges and behaviors to a genetic link between the father and daughter. Although their conclusions were inconclusive, it is clear that whether there is a genetic link or not, daughters that grow up without a father (especially if he abandoned them) are significantly more prone to destructive behavior than those who have a father present.

It therefore seems that a father indeed has influence on his daughter and on her development as a whole person. A daughter will be a different kind of person depending on the level of involvement her father has. The question now remains: In what specific ways, or in which areas of life, does a father influence?

Long-Term Male Romantic Relationships

It is often said that a daughter is attracted to, or marries, someone just like her father. It appears that this might indeed be the case, or at least a factor, in how a daughter chooses a spouse or a romantic partner. According to a study conducted on college students (both male and female) by Knox, Zusman and DeCuzzi, “offspring whose parents were divorced were more likely to avoid short-term relationships” (2004, ¶ 1). These young women and men are more likely to be more cautious than their peers who have married parents, because they have experienced first hand the pain that results from a broken relationship. Ognibene quoted author Victoria Secunda as saying that the “greatest impact on a woman’s romantic choices and ability to feel comfortable in her own sexuality is how her father related to her in childhood” (1994, ¶ 1). A daughter’s romantic choices will be tainted by the way her father treated her whether she likes it or not. Certain behaviors on his part will trigger her behaviors.

Further, there have been numerous studies on the negative effects that an absent father has on his daughter’s romantic relationships. Krohn and Bogan summarized them in this way: “numerous studies [indicate] that girls from fatherless families develop more promiscuous attitudes and experience difficulty in forming or maintaining romantic relations later in their development… These behavioral patterns are carried with them into womanhood and may be the cause of their unfulfilling relationships with men” (2001, ¶ 17).

Views of the Opposite Sex

Hutchenson remarked that “fathers may be able to provide daughters with unique perspectives, enhance their overall understanding of men, and provide opportunities to role-play communication strategies with men” (2002, ¶ 1). The way a young woman is going to view the opposite sex is going to come from her early memories of the opposite sex: the memories of her father and the way in which he treated her and the women around her. Whether it is a positive or negative view is going to depend a good deal on what the girl’s father was like and whether he was there or not.

First, there is the father who is present, whether involved or not: “Girls who have little contact with their fathers have great difficulties forming lasting relationships with men…[while those with] involved fathers learn how to interact with males by using the father-daughter relationship as a model” (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, ¶ 9). If this model is positive and loving, a girl will view the opposite sex with confidence and trust. If the model is negative, the girl will view the opposite sex with fear and doubt.

Then there is the father who is absent. The experience a girl has when she loses her father, whether by divorce, abandonment, or death, will shape the way she views men. Girls who “lose their fathers to divorce or abandonment… tend to be more critical of their fathers and the opposite sex… (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, ¶ 12). Girls who lose their father to death, however, have a positive view of their father and feel the sadness of his loss and often avoid other men (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, ¶ 12 & 13). It seems then that girls are going to have expectations of how they will be treated by men, what they are worth in men’s eyes, and what to expect from men from their experiences with their fathers. The circumstances under which they lost him, however, will play a role in that.

Sexuality

A father’s influence can have large implications on how promiscuous his daughter is with her physical sexuality. According to Krohn and Bogan, “Females who lose their fathers to divorce or abandonment seek much more attention from men and had more physical contact with boys their age than girls from intact homes” (2001, ¶ 12). They also warn that “girls who have little contact with their fathers, especially during adolescence had great difficulties forming lasting relationships with men…these females either shy away from males altogether, or become sexually aggressive” (2001, ¶9).

Other studies found, among other things, that “fathers may play an important role through the discussion of socio-sexual issues with daughters” (Hutchenson, 2002, ¶ 1). Further, “communication and relationships with fathers are also potentially important influences of daughters’ sexual attitude and behaviours” and fathers are “important sources of discussion of more general moral and sexual issues” (Hutchenson, 2002, ¶ 11). Although both the father and the mother are important in talking to and teaching their daughters about sexuality, the father has a unique influence that the mother may not; he provides a male perspective and often a standard of morality when it comes to his daughter’s sexuality.

Body Image

“Available fathers who talked to, praised, and responded to their daughters boost their girls’ social responsiveness and positive feeling about self beyond the level of those girls whose fathers were uninvolved” (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, Secure Foundations section, ¶ 1). A girl’s body image is significantly affected by the culture in which she lives but also by the way men in her life view her and other women. It is far less likely for a girl who has a loving, praising father to succumb to an eating disorder in order to feel better about herself.

An extensive study by Botta and Dumlao came to several conclusions regarding the link between eating disorders, communication styles, and conflict resolution patterns between a father and a daughter. Their research indicated that “skilled conflict resolution and open communication between father and daughter may offset eating disorders” (2002, p. 199). They came to this conclusion when they realized that “a dysfunctional early family environment leads to a negative self-image, which contributes to…self-directed hostility” (Botta & Dumlao, 2002, p. 212). Self-directed hostility is referring to the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia, which are used by girls to try to control their body. Further, Botta and Dumlao found that “conflict resolution offering respite from aversive emotional states should help alleviate the need for self-directed hostility and bulimic behaviours” (2002, p. 214)

Social Skills

Children learn their social skills from their parents. Yet, according to Updegraff, McHale, Crouter, & Kupanoff there have been few studies conducted on the relationship between a father and daughter and her peers/social skills. It is clear, they said, that parents interact more with the children and their peers of the same gender (mother/daughter and father/son). It remains to be seen how much of an influence a father has on his daughter’s peer relationships and, thus, her social skills in that area.

However, there is some research pertaining to this area. Perkins conducted a study of college-aged women and the influence their fathers had on their life styles. She stated that “if theorists are correct, it may be assumed that the father-daughter relationship has the potential to shape interaction patterns that surface as women enter into adult college relationships” (Perkins, 2001, ¶ 4). Therefore, it seems that a girl’s relationship with her father will often dictate her life style and the choices she makes socially as an adult.

Academic Goals

It appears that a girl’s success in school has at least a little bit to do with having a father in her life. “Researchers agree the females who lack father figures are more prone to experience diminished cognitive development and poor school performance (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, Introduction section, ¶ 2). Research also found that “well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters” (Nielsen, 2007, ¶ 12). A father figure is needed for academic encouragement and support, and a daughter seems to react negatively in academics without a father present.

Further, studies have shown that “females with absent fathers often have diminished cognitive development; poor school performance, lower achievement test scores, and lower IQ scores” (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, Academic Performance of Young Girls section, ¶ 1).

Also, not having a father tends to either discourage college attendance or push girls to achieve the highest possible standards in an effort to gain their father’s missing approval (Krohn & Bogan, 2001, Father-Absence and College Attendance section, ¶ 4). Krohn and Bogan also noted that “daughters obtain secure foundations knowing what their fathers believe in and stand for” (2001, Introduction section, ¶ 6). A solid foundation is essential for success in both academics and a career. Daughters without this foundation are prone to giving up easily and not following through if they start college at all.

Method

The purpose of the study was to determine the influence of a father on his daughter’s development. The following questions provided the focus of the study:

  1. To what extent does a father have influence over his daughter’s development?
  2. In what specific areas does the father influence the daughter’s development?
Method of Data Collection

The ten-question survey instrument (Appendix A) used in this study determined the influence a father has on his daughter’s development. The first three questions requested demographic data. The survey instrument was distributed to the students enrolled in The Master’s College between the dates of March 23, 2009, and March 27, 2009. All survey instruments were returned directly to the researcher.

Statistical Procedures

STATPAK was employed to examine the data; the desired scale of measurement was nominal, which is defined as “qualitative variables; provides for a categories and permits counting how many are in each category” (Joseph & Joseph, 1986, p. 54). Data were collected from both male and female students enrolled in The Master’s College using a ten-item survey instrument that was returned directly to the researcher. The One Dimensional Chi-Square statistical test was used because it is “a nonparametric test of hypotheses for variables” (Healey, 2005, p. 544) that is “most often used with nominal data” (Joseph & Joseph, 1986, p. 182). A .05 level of significance was used to test the results of the study. Data retrieved from the demographic portion of the survey instrument were reported in percentages, tables, and figures.

Results

The subjects sampled for this study were the students enrolled in The Master’s College located in Santa Clarita, CA, during the spring 2009 semester. Fifty copies of the survey instrument were distributed; forty-six were returned and forty-six were used in this study. The data collected from the forty-six subjects will be discussed in subsequent sections, commencing with the reporting of the demographic findings. The demographic section of the survey indicated that 46% of the students surveyed were male and 54% were female; 5% were between the ages of 13 and 17, 95% were between the ages of 18 and 26, and 0% were 26 or older; and 37% of the students surveyed reported themselves as freshmen, 22% as sophomores, 17% as juniors, and 24% as seniors. Table 1 summarizes the results of the 7 survey questions.

Table 1. Summary of Responses to Survey Questions

Survey Question

Scale Number

Total Responses

Computed Chi-Square Value

Tabled Chi-Square Value

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

4

0

0

2

17

27

46

20.6522

5.991

5

0

0

5

18

23

46

11.2609

5.991

6

0

0

2

17

27

46

20.6522

5.991

7

0

2

16

18

10

46

13.4783

7.815

8

2

2

10

17

15

46

21.6087

9.488

9

0

2

9

22

13

46

18.1739

7.815

10

0

0

5

23

18

46

11.2609

5.991

Research Question One

To what extent does a father have influence over his daughter’s development? Question 4 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this research question.

The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated value for question 4 was significant at the .05 level of significance and suggested that a father does have influence on his daughter at each stage of her development.

The findings from question 4 align with research conducted by Krohn and Bogan who found that “inconsistant father-daughter relations can have a devastating effect on a female’s life by making her more vulnerable to outside influences” (2001, Security and Stability section, ¶ 5).

Research Question Two

In what specific areas does the father influence the daughter’s development? Questions 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this research question.

The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated value for questions 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were all significant at the .05 level of significance and suggested that a father does have influence on his daughter’s choice of a romantic partner, view of the opposite sex, sexuality, body image, social skills, and academic goals.

The findings from question 5 align with Victoria Secunda’s statement that the “greatest impact on a woman’s romantic choices…is how her father related to her in childhood” (Ognibene, 1994, ¶ 1). Research by Nielsen also drew this conclusion, as it stated that the majority of the college women she studied “wanted to hear more about their father’s romantic experiences and his ideas about love and marriage” (2007, ¶ 8).

The findings from question 6 align with the research conducted by Hutchenson who says that “fathers may be able to provide daughters with unique perspectives, enhance their overall understanding of men, and provide opportunities to role-play communication strategies with men” (2002, ¶ 1).

The findings from question 7 align with the research conducted by Krohn and Bogan who say that “girls who have little contact with their fathers, especially during adolescence had great difficulties forming lasting relationships with men…[and] these females either shy away from males altogether, or become sexually aggressive” (2001, ¶9).

The findings from question 8 align with the research conducted by Botta and Dumlao who found that “skilled conflict resolution and open communication between father and daughter may offset eating disorders” and “a lack of those skills or attempting to resolve conflict in ways that do not offer long-term resolution for both father and daughter can lead to increased eating disordered behaviors” (2002, p. 199).

The findings from question 9 align with the research conducted by Perkins who says “if theorists are correct, it may be assumed that the father-daughter relationship has the potential to shape interaction patterns that surface as women enter into adult college relationships” (2001, ¶ 4). Further, Perkins concluded that the way a daughter behaves in all kinds of social situations will depend on what “type” of father she had growing up (Perkins, 2001, Entire discussion section).

The findings from question 10 align with the research conducted by Nielsen who found that “well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters” (Nielsen, 2007, ¶ 12).

Findings

The results of the One-Dimensional Chi-square tests at the .05 significance level for all of the survey instrument questions suggest that the students at The Master’s College are of the belief that a father has influence over his daughter not only at each stage of development, but also regarding his daughter’s choice of a romantic partner, view of the opposite sex, sexuality, body image, social skills, and academic goals.

Discussion

Within the stated purpose and findings of this study, the following conclusions appear warranted:

  1. A father does have influence on his daughter’s development according to the participants in this study.
  2. The father does have influence on the daughter’s development in specific areas according to the participants in this study.

The findings in this study yielded all significant results at the .05 level of significance. The majority of the participants either strongly agreed or agreed that a father has influence on his daughter not only overall, but in many specific areas. It can therefore be concluded, according to this study, that no matter what the connection between a father and his daughter, there is some form of connection on some level, and that the relationship between the two is important at many social, mental, physical and emotional levels.

It is clear not only from the survey conducted but also from previous research that a father influences his daughter’s thoughts, her feelings, her emotions, her dreams, and her ambitions. This study further suggests that many college-aged students do believe that a father holds sway over his daughter. These important results should not be ignored.

Limitations of the Study

A couple of limitations to this study existed. The sample population consisted only of college students between the ages of 17 and 26 attending The Master’s College, during the spring semester of 2009. Knowledge of the relationship the women had with their fathers, as well as knowledge of if the men had sisters or not, is not known. Although the findings of this study pertain only to the students attending The Master’s College, a general trend may be observed and the above conclusions drawn.

Recommendations for Further Study

This study provides some information regarding the impact a father has upon his daughter’s development. Additional questions pertaining to the impact a father has upon his daughter’s development warrant further investigation; thus, the following recommendations for further research and study are offered:

  1. This study should be replicated, using a different population to determine whether other college-aged populations believe a father has influence upon his daughter’s development.
  2. A study should be conducted to determine in what specific ways a father has influence on his daughter’s body image.
  3. The specific effects from losing a father due to specific instances such as divorce, death, or abandonment on a daughter should be studied.
  4. A study should be conducted to determine whether a mother or a father has more impact on a daughter’s choice of a spouse/romantic partner.
References

Botta, R., & Dumlao, R. (2002). How do conflict and communication patterns between fathers and daughters contribute to or offset eating disorders? Health Communication, 14(2), 199-219.

Comings, D., Muhleman, D., Johnson J., & MacMurray, J. (July/Aug 2002). Parent-daughter transmission of the androgen receptor gene as and explanation of the effect of father absence on age of menarche. Child Development, 73(4), 1046-1051.

Healey, Joseph F. (2005). Statistics: A tool for social research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Hutchenson, K. M. (2002, July). The influence of sexual risk communication between parents and daughters on sexual risk behaviors. Family Relations. 51(3), 238-248. Retrieved January 29, 2009 from .

Knox, D., Zusman, M., & DeCuzzi, A. (2004, Dec. 1). The effect of parental divorce on relationships with parents and romantic partners of college students. College Student Journal, 38 (4). Retrieved January 29, 2009, from ERIC database.

Krohn, F., & Bogan, Z. (Dec 2001). The effects absent fathers have on female development and college attendance. College Student Journal, 35(4), 598. Retrieved February 4, 2009 from Academic Search Premier.

Joseph, M. L., & Joseph, W. D. (1979). Research fundamentals in home economics. Redondo , CA: Plycon Press.

Nielsen, L. (2007, March 1). College daughters’ relationships with their fathers: A 15 year study. College Student Journal, 41(1), 112-121. Retrieved January 29, 2009, from ERIC database.

Norment, L., & Chappell, K. (Jun 2003). Parenting: How parents influence the way sons and daughters view their dates, spouses and the world. Ebony, 58(8), 35. Retrieved February 3, 2009 from ProQuest.

Ognibene, E. R. (1994, Feb 28). Women and their fathers: The sexual and romantic impact of the first man in your life by Victoria Secunda. Journal of Men’s Studies, 2(3), 287.

Perkins, R. M. (2001, December). The father-daughter relationship: Familial interactions that impact a daughter’s style of life. College Student Journal, 35(4), 616. Retrieved February 4, 2009 from ERIC database.

Roper Poll (2004). Dads talk about their daughters. NY: United Business Media.

Updegraff, K. A., McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Kupanoff, K. (2001, Aug.). Parents’ involvement in adolescents’ peer relationships: A comparison of mothers’ and father’s roles. Journal of Marriage and Family 63(3), 655-668. Retrieved February 4, 2009 from ProQuest database.


APPENDIX A
Survey Instrument
Does a Father Have Influence on His Daughter?

Hello, my name is Caitlin Goossen and I need your help! I am conducting a survey to determine what type of influence a father has on his daughter’s development for my undergraduate thesis. My thesis won’t be complete without your answers! Please answer the following questions and return the survey to me personally or to Box number 1438 by March 27 th. Thank you so much. Your participation is a blessing.

1. My gender is M _____ F _____

2. My age group is 13-17 _____ 18-26 _____ 27+ _____

3. I would be categorizes as a Freshman ___ Sophomore ___ Junior ___ Senior ___

On a scale of 1- 5 (1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree), respond to the following questions by circling your answers:

4. A father influences his daughter at each stage of development.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

5. A fath er influences his daughter’s choice of a romantic partner.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

6. A father influences his daughter’s view of the opposite sex.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

7. A father influences his daughter’s sexuality.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

8. A father influences his daughter’s body image.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

9. A father influences his daughter’s social skills.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree

10. A father influences his daughter’s academic goals.

              1                     2                     3                     4                      5

Strongly Disagree   Disagree          Neutral             Agree          Strongly Agree


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