Committee for Children Blog

The Power of the Dad-Daughter Dynamic

As Father’s Day approaches, we encourage you to embrace every opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the father figures in your life. Fathers are significant influencers in the lives of their children; they're no longer valued just for bringing home the figurative bacon. The days of detached fathering are becoming a thing of the past. Dads are more involved than ever in all aspects of childrearing. Research has found that men who are fathers are actually happier than their childless peers. Not only do dads benefit from getting involved, but there are huge benefits for children, too! The latest research points to several areas where dads have an especially profound effect on their daughters’ health and well-being.

Dealing with Stress

Research has found that the perceived quality of the relationship between father and daughter may influence the daughter’s ability to manage stress because lower baseline cortisol levels were detected when there was a warm relationship, and higher cortisol levels were detected when there was a strain on the relationship. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone” and is responsible for regulating changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Thus, the daughters with the lower cortisol levels tended to have lower reactivity to developmentally appropriate stressors and increased coping mechanisms to deal with stressful situations. They also found that positive interactions between fathers and daughters may influence social cognition such that when discussing social problems with peers, women with warm fathers tended to be less inclined to focus on the elements of the problem that are uncontrollable or unpredictable.

Self-Esteem and Body Image

Fathers can set the foundation for a young woman with regard to how she views herself and her body. When fathers are present and loving, young girls learn to view themselves in a positive light. Dads who show unconditional love and support for their daughters increase the probability of a positive body image. But when a dad’s feedback focuses on his daughter’s looks and talents, there tends to be a higher incidence of negative body image. Research has also proven that daughters who feel a strong emotional connection to their fathers are also less likely to be depressed or have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.

Academic Performance and Professional Success

Not only does a positive, warm, and connected relationship to one’s father help girls and women emotionally, it can have a profound effect on their success in school and in their careers. A recent U.S. census found that girls who had a warm relationship with their fathers were 43% more likely to earn A’s and 33% less likely than other children to repeat a grade. Women are seeking careers similar to those of their fathers now more than ever. A 2009 study from the University of Maryland found that 20% of women currently in their 30s are following in their fathers’ professional footsteps, compared to only 6% back in the early 1900s. The thinking behind this shift is that not only are more women in the workforce now, but also their fathers are mentoring and investing more in their daughters’ futures, as well as in their relationships with their daughters.

Healthy Relationships in Adulthood with Men

One of the most significant published findings is that girls who enjoy healthy relationships with their fathers tend to have healthier, happier, and longer-lasting relationships with men in adulthood. They also tended to have stronger communication skills, which promoted healthier intimate relationships with men. A study in 2010 found that the interactions with her father in a girl’s formative years could be a strong predictor of both her intimate and sexual relationships with men later. The study found that girls who did not feel emotionally close to their fathers tended to engage in more frequent sexual activity in adolescence. The reason for this may be that they are trying to fill the emotional void created by a lack of closeness and affection.

When fathers connect on an emotional level and invest in building relationships with their daughters, the increase in physical, mental and social well-being is profound. Fathers have a very important role to play in building emotionally and socially healthy children. So this Father’s Day, be sure to show your appreciation for the men in your life who are investing in their families and children.


Allgood, S. M., Beckert, T. E., & Peterson, C. (2012). The role of father involvement in the perceived psychological well-being of young adult daughters: A retrospective study. North American Journal of Psychology, (14)1, 95–110. 

Byrd-Craven J., Auer, B. J., Granger, D.A., & Massey, A. R. (2012).The father-daughter dance: the relationship between father-daughter relationship quality and daughters' stress response. Journal of Family Psychology. 26(1), 87–94. DOI: 10.1037/a0026588

Hartwell-Walker, M. (2015). Daughters need fathers, too. Retrieved from

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Lloyd, R. (2009). Trend: Daughters follow dads’ footsteps. Retrieved from

Scheffler, T. S. & Naus, P. J. (1999). The relationship between fatherly affirmation and a woman's self-esteem, fear of intimacy, comfort with womanhood and comfort with sexuality. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 8(1), 39–45.

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