NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, April 9, 2023

Fatherless Daughters: What is the Potential Emotional Impact of Growing Up Without a Father?

The potential impact for girls who grow up without a father can be profoundly traumatic.  

Fatherless Daughters

What is Fatherlessness?
Fatherlessness is defined as a lack of an emotional bond between a father and his child.  This can be the result of the father's death, abuse, addiction, incarceration, abandonment of the family or other issues.

What Role Does a Father Play in a Girl's Life?
Although psychology has mostly focused on the role of the mother, greater attention is now being paid to the father's role in a young girl's life.

A Healthy Father-Daughter Relationship

A healthy relationship with a father has an important positive impact on a girl's:
  • Confidence
  • Self esteem
  • Self image
  • Beliefs about herself
  • Perspective on men
  • Ability to trust
  • Need for approval

A Healthy Father-Daughter Relationship

All other things being equal, women who grew up in a healthy father-daughter relationship are more likely to have:
  • Self confidence
  • Confidence in their choices
  • Healthy body image
  • Better academic achievement
  • A greater ability to trust
  • A greater ability to take risks
  • A better opinion of men
  • More meaningful relationships with men in general
  • Better decision-making capability and choices in the men they choose for romantic partners
Mitigating Factors That Help Fatherless Girls in Their Psychological and Emotional Development
Although this article focuses on many of the potential problems usually associated with fatherless daughters, it's important to note that not all fatherless daughters grow up to have the problems outlined in this article. 

A Loving Grandfather With His Granddaughter

For many of them there are mitigating factors that help them in their psychological and emotional development, including other father figures like uncles, grandfathers and other healthy males who take on a paternal role.

In addition, girls who work with a qualified mental health professional can overcome many of the potential problems that are usually associated with being a fatherless daughter.  

The Potential Emotional Impact For Women Who Grew Up Without a Father
Unfortunately, girls who lose their father at a young age are at a higher risk for problems as an adult in the areas mentioned above where girls in healthy father-daughter relationships excel. 

Fatherless Daughters

There is a derogatory term, "Daddy issues" which is mostly used in social media and has no place in psychology. This popular derogatory term describes women who have been negatively impacted by the loss of their father at a young age.  

Women who grow up without a father (or an inconsistent father) often have an anxious attachment style, including fear of abandonment.  

As children, they often blamed themselves for the loss of their father and, similarly, they can blame themselves for problems in their adult relationships with men.  

In addition, they might have grown up feeling that their father wasn't around because their father didn't love them or they were in some way inherently unlovable. This can carry over into their romantic relationships with men where their low self esteem causes them to choose men who don't treat them well.

Signs That a Woman Has a Father Wound
Fatherless daughters often:
  • Date Older Men: They often choose older men as romantic partners. Older men can represent security and protection to them.
  • Feel Overly Anxious or Jealous: Fatherless daughters often worry that their partner might leave them for someone else or abandon them in some other way, which is related to their abandonment issues with their absent father. This anxiety and jealousy can ruin a relationship.
  • Need Constant Reassurance: This is related to their deep-rooted fear of abandonment.  They might fear that their partner is angry with them or that they have made wrong decisions. This need for constant reassurance can take its toll on a relationship.
  • Fear Abandonment: As previously mentioned, fear of abandonment can be a big issue for women who grew up without a father. They often place a lot of importance on being in a committed relationship--at any cost--even if their partner doesn't treat them well. Their fear of being abandoned can have the effect of driving a partner away.  It can also cause these women to be serial monogamists where they jump quickly from one relationship to another (see my article: How Therapy Can Help You to Overcome Fear of Abandonment).
  • Get Into One Unhealthy Relationship After Another: Since they often fear being alone, they can repeat dysfunctional patterns of getting into one toxic relationship after  another.  They might choose men who cheat on them, misuse drugs or alcohol, abuse them and mistreat them in other ways (see my article: Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?).
Once again, I want to emphasize that the problems discussed in this article are not universally true for all fatherless daughters.

There are girls who are emotionally resilient who don't experience the problems discussed in this article.  

There can be many factors, including the mitigating factors discussed above or other related reasons why these girls don't develop these problems.  

More research is needed to identify these factors.

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy
As previously mentioned, the loss of a father at a young age is often detrimental, especially as girls develop into women and carry the trauma of the loss into their adult life, including their relationships.

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy

If you were traumatized by the loss of your father, it's never too late to get help.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a trauma specialist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

Many people experience increased personal meaning in their life and posttraumatic growth after they overcome their losses in trauma therapy.

With the help of a skilled trauma therapist, you can work through your loss so that you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

As a trauma therapist, I have helped many individuals overcome trauma and loss so they can lead happier lives.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.