Important role of fathers in his daughter’s life. Part l

| May 19, 2014
Social and Cultural Anthropologist and contributor Scherin Barlow-Massay

Social and Cultural Anthropologist and contributor Scherin Barlow-Massay

Community news.The absence of fathers in the lives of male children is well documented in books and the media. Yet, not much has been mentioned about the impact that such absenteeism has on the lives of girls and young women.  While a mother’s primary role is that of an educator to her children, she also takes care of their health and nutritional needs, and helps in the formation of their intellect, character and personality.

Yet, apart from traditionally being the main financial provider, fathers also have an equally important role in the development of the personality of their daughters.  The Bayley Scales of Infant Development, used to assess the development of motor, language and cognitive skills in infants and toddlers, show that infants of fathers who are involved from the onset in their children’s lives, have a higher level of cognitive development skills by six months.  Such children continue to exhibit better scores in their cognitive growth, and are better problem solvers by the time they reach three years old, than those, whose fathers did not take an active role in their lives (Easterbrooks and Goldberg, 1984).

Girls with fathers, who cast a protective eye over them, are secure in the knowledge that their father is someone who will defend and protect them from physical harm, in a way that a woman cannot. This helps their confidence to develop further.  An extension of that protection comes from verbal instruction.  A good father talks to his daughter about life experiences, his and others, his mistakes and accomplishments.

Such communication builds trust and understanding and she is more likely to seek him out for advice when she encounters a problem.  Good parenting sets moral standards from early in a child’s development, for intimate relationships in later life. While certain cultures shy away from such vital instruction, it is good to talk to one’s child about how to keep safe from the opposite sex and the parts of the body that no one, not even the parent should touch.

Moreover, there is more of an impact when a father talks to his daughter about men, after all, he is in a better position to know and warn her about the wiles of some men.  In addition, when there is a visible presence of a father, any potential partner recognises that he has to have the fathers’ approval in order to date his daughter.  He also recognises that a girl from a supportive family will do what they can to safeguard their daughter from any perceived negative influences.

A father by his conduct and interactions with his daughter, teaches her consciously and subconsciously what kind of behaviour to expect and accept from men, because he is her first teacher in her interaction with males.  If their relationship is good, it sets a precedent for future relationships.  Furthermore, if her parents interact well with each other, she learns how a man should treat a woman.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

A girl whose self-esteem is nurtured within a loving home environment is more likely to look for a healthy union when she has matured enough for an adult relationship rather than one that is emotionally or physically abusive.  A child learns that her father (because he is her first masculine authority figure) has a different expectation of the kind of conduct she is required to maintain, because he teaches his daughter self respect from a male perspective.

She learns an acceptable code of dressing around men, and in so doing, learns to dress in a manner that shows that she wants to be seen as a respectable and serious individual, as opposed to dressing in a manner that sexualizes her girlhood and attracts the wrong kind of attention.  Moreover, she recognises that her conduct reflects on her parents and in particular her fathers’ ability to influence in a good manner, those within the household.

A girl with such an understanding, and coupled by a watchful parental eye, is less likely to misbehave or become pregnant at an early age, or have drug and alcohol related problems (Harris et al., 1998). Ideally, if both parents work together, they complement their child’s growth by creating a balance; both parents give their children a recognised sense of identity and belonging and recognition and acceptance into their extended family.

Studies have shown that girls, whose fathers have an active role in their lives, have higher self-esteem and get better grades in school.  Nevertheless, this relationship is by no means one sided; the relationship is symbiotic because men who are involved in the care of their children become more self-confident and develop better parenting skills.  Such fathers are likely to develop more emotionally and psychologically and become more empathetic in their dealings with others. They are often active participants within their community.

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