Emotionally absent fathers and their adult daughters' relationship with men
Emotionally Absent Fathers 4 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 3 List of Tables! 7 ABSTRACT 8 Introduction 10 LITERATURE REVIEW : 11 Historical Role of Fathers and Families 11 How Fathers Impact Daughters 14 How fathers' involvement impacts daughters' development 15 How over-involved fathers impact daughters' development 19 How fathers influence daughters' views on gender role and stereotypes 21 Impact of Abusive and Absent Fathers on Adult Daughters' Sexual and Romantic Relationships with Men 21 Do Emotionally Absent Fathers Impact Adult Daughters' Sexual and Romantic Relationships with Men?.. 23 The Role of Mothers in the Father-Daughter Relationship 24 Stepmothers versus biological mothers 26 Purpose of Research 27 METHOD .' 29 Purpose 29 Methodology ; 29
Emotionally Absent Fathers 5 Design 29 Recruitment 30 Participants 31 Exclusion Criteria 32 Human Subjects 32 Informed Consent 32 Debriefing 33 Confidentiality 33 Research Procedure 34 Data Analysis 35 Researcher Bias , 37 RESULTS... 38 Emotionally absent versus emotionally present group 39 Description of Father 39 Parents' Relationship 41 Father-daughter relationship and interactions 42 Father's expectations of daughter. .' 43 Mother's influence over father-daughter relationship 46 Mother's approval of father-daughter relationship 49 Daughter's perception of father's reaction to dating 50 Rules about becoming sexually active ...52 Dating experiences 54
Emotionally Absent Fathers 6 Unhappiness in Relationships 55 Dating / Relationship Patterns. 57 What women look for in men and relationships 58 Perception of parental approval 59 Statistical Analysis 60 Summary 62 DISCUSSION 64 REFERENCES 80 APPENDICES 83 Appendix A - Recruitment Speech / Letter 83 Appendix B - Recruitment Speech / Letter (to participants) 84 Appendix C - Informed Consent 85 Appendix D - Debriefing 88 Appendix E - Interview 89 Appendix F - IRB Approval. 93
Emotionally Absent Fathers 7 LIST OF TABLES Table 1. Mean and standard deviations of participants' mood and self-esteem... 61 Table 2. Mean and standard deviations of participants' age of first activity and number of sexual partners 61
Emotionally Absent Fathers 8 ABSTRACT This study examines how a daughter's childhood relationship with an emotionally absent father may influence her adult romantic and sexual relationships with men. The father-daughter dyad is often overlooked when compared to the father-son or mother-daughter dyad. However, research shows that fathers are very influential in all areas of a woman's life, including self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, and personal achievement. Current literature shows that daughters of physically absent fathers are likely to engage in earlier dating and sexual activities and be more sexually promiscuous. However, the current research does not examine if and how a father who was a physical presence, but emotionally withdrawn and aloof, can influence his daughter and whether or not such daughters display particular relational patterns in their romantic and sexual relationships with men. Fourteen heterosexual women between the ages of 26 and 42 were interviewed using a semi-structured interview. Participants were recruited from word-of- mouth referrals made by this researcher's colleagues. The interview questions focused on two major areas: 1) the father-daughter relationship and 2) the adult woman's romantic and sexual relationships with men. The transcribed interviews were coded and analyzed to determine common themes that emerged using a grounded theory emerging design. Two-tailed independent t-tests were conducted on interview questions that yielded numeric responses. Data analyses yielded thirteen themes. The findings of this study support the hypothesis that fathers influence women's romantic and sexual relationships and that fathers lay the
Emotionally Absent Fathers 9 foundation on which future relationships with men are built. Women with emotionally absent fathers are more likely to remain in unhappy or unsatisfying relationship and are more likely to form relationships with men who do not meet their needs compared to the women whose fathers are emotionally present. Women with emotionally absent fathers reported that they began dating and engaging in sexual activity at an earlier age than the women in the emotionally present group. Although these differences did not reach statistical significance, it may suggest that women with emotionally absent fathers engage in behaviors similar to women withphysically absent fathers.
Emotionally Absent Fathers 10 CHAPTER 1 Introduction Most people have heard the expression "girls marry their fathers," but how true is this statement? Are fathers really that influential in a woman's life? And if so, why are fathers commonly not considered important in child rearing? In fact, starting in the early nineteenth century, fathers played practically no role in raising children, except in the socialization of their sons. This did not change until after World War II (Demos, 1982; Goulter & Minninger, 1993). Still, psychologists as far back as Sigmund Freud have always emphasized the role of fathers in child development. Most of the literature that focuses on the paternal parenting role is directed at the father-son dyad. The father-daughter relationship is often ignored. When such research is conducted, its main focus is on physically absent, abusive, or incestual fathers (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998, 2003; Perkins, 2001). This research project will examine the specific impact of emotionally absent fathers on their adult daughters' romantic and sexual relationships with men. This paper will first examine how the role of fathers in the family has changed throughout American history, beginning with fathers serving as the main caretaker and dominant figure in the early seventeenth century, to having no role in childrearing in the nineteenth century, and then becoming more active in the family after World War II (Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998; Demos, 1982; Goulter & Minninger, 1993; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). Next, the more general influences that fathers have
Emotionally Absent Fathers 11 on their daughters' development will be examined, followed by a discussion of the influence of absent fathers on daughters' romantic and sexual relationships and sexual development. Current studies show that daughters of physically absent fathers begin puberty at a younger age, are more sexually promiscuous, have a more casual attitude about sex, and have more numerous and less stable romantic relationships with men. However, the research does not address whether or not the same is true of daughters of emotionally absent fathers (Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998; Ellis et al., 1999; Ellis et al., 2003; Goulter & Minninger, 1993; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). This project will present the findings of one-on-one interviews with women, examining their perceptions of their relationships with their fathers and their romantic and sexual relationships with men, looking specifically for common relationship patterns or interview themes among participants. Literature Review Historical Role of Fathers and Families The available literature on the role and history of fathers and fatherhood in America is very limited. Of the historical literature that exists, most, if not all, is applicable only to the dominant social group, which is white men and women, usually upper class. Therefore it should be noted before beginning to explore the historical roles of fathers and families that this history is applicable to a narrow group.
Emotionally Absent Fathers 12 The role of fathers and the history of fatherhood in America has changed significantly over the years. Yet, historians and researchers have written little about the early days of fatherhood (Demos, 1982). The available research suggests that, in America, the most significant changes in paternal parenting roles occurred over three specific eras: the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and modern times (Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998; Demos, 1982; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). The goals, values, and quality of interactions differ drastically between early seventeenth century fathers and their modern counterparts (Demos, 1982). The role fathers play in childrearing coincides with the gender differences of the time (Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998; Demos, 1982). Demos states that during the seventeenth century women were viewed as inferior to men in all ways. Not only were men believed to be more intelligent than women, but they were also believed to be more moral. The theory was that Eve, not Adam, gave in to temptation and ate the apple offered by the serpent; therefore, women were weaker than men. Because women were viewed as less intelligent, weak, and immoral, fathers were charged with their children's moral and religious education, marriage arrangements, and dowry endowments. Mothers were rarely mentioned. These beliefs and practices held steady until the early nineteenth century. Although during this period of time there was tension between a desire to change and a need to cling to past beliefs, change eventually won out. Modern sex role stereotypes began to emerge. Women were viewed as patient, selfless and pure
Emotionally Absent Fathers 13 (Demos, 1982). Men, in contrast, were considered "strong, but crude" and in danger of becoming savages without women to guide them. Women were the keepers of society's morals and responsible for raising good and socially productive children (Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998). In addition to the changes in gender roles, Demos states that two other national changes occurred that contributed to changes in the role of fathers. During the nineteenth century, advice books became very popular. Books were written on a multitude of topics, including courting rituals, how to have a successful marriage, and childrearing. The books on childrearing made it very clear that raising children was the responsibility of the mother. The titles of such books, The Mother at Home, The Mother's Book, and The Young Mother's Companion, to name a few, set the role of mothers and fathers very clearly. Although some individuals, particularly clergymen, objected to the limited role given to fathers, they lost the battle. The father's serving role was to lead the family in prayer, lead dinnertime discussions, and often to be the primary disciplinarian. Fathers were also playtime buddies for children (Demos, 1982; Bailey, Kennedy, & Cohen, 1998). The second social change contributing to the alteration of the paternal parenting role was the shift to working out of the home. Fathers were physically present in the home less than mothers. Their primary role in the family became that of financial supporter (Demos, 1982). Thus the American household at the start of the twentieth century was clearly defined: men built homes, developed the
Emotionally Absent Fathers 14 growing country, and provided the family with food and shelter. Women managed the home and raised the children (Bailey et al., 1998; Demos, 1982). However, the role of fathers was to change once again. By the end of World War II men were no longer viewed as savages in need of moral guidance. In addition, women, having been called upon to work during the war, began to work out of the home in the 1950s (Bailey et al., 1998). Since the roles women played in society changed, so did the roles of men. It became necessary for fathers to become more active fixtures in the family as women were spending more time outside of the house (Goulter & Minninger, 1993). How Fathers Impact Daughters The research literature tells us that the father-daughter relationship is one that will profoundly affect women throughout their lives (e.g. Nielsen, 2005; Perkins, 2001; Secunda, 1992). Nielson (2005) states that women with positive father-daughter relationships are more likely to avoid teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and abusive relationships. They are also more self-confident, more self- reliant, and less dependent on male relationships. Morgan and Wilcoxon (2003) state that the quality of paternal parenting substantially impacts both genders, but the psychological implications for daughters is often less obvious and immediate. Existing research has shown that fathers can impact daughters' self-esteem, emotional development, cognitive development, achievement, ideas of gender roles, mental health, and sexuality (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998; Davidson, 1997).
Emotionally Absent Fathers 15 How fathers' involvement impacts daughters' development Scheffler and Naus (1999) administered the Rosenberg Scale of Self- Esteem, Barret-Lennard's Relationship Inventory, Fear of Intimacy Scale, an adaptation of the Masculinity Scale, a five-point Likert scale to measure comfort with womanhood, and a self-created questionnaire to measure comfort with sexuality to 75 female undergraduates in Ontario between the ages of 20 and 24. They found significant, positive correlations between a woman's perceived affirmation by her father and her self-esteem and comfort with sexuality. They also found a significant negative correlation between a woman's perceived affirmation by her father and her fear of intimacy. They concluded that fatherly affirmation is crucial to daughters' mental and emotional development. This is further supported by Davidson's review of Rose Spiegel's 1966 article "Role of father-daughter relationships in depressed women" in which she states that daughters who feel alienated from their fathers during puberty develop a sense of shame about themselves and their sexuality. This shame can lead women to feel anxious and depressed (1997). Perkins (2001) administered the Adjective Checklist to 96 women measuring the following variables: assertiveness, relational needs, cognitive ego strength, and critical self-image. Each of the aforementioned variables was measured based on how the participant viewed the following variables: her real self, her ideal self, her father, and her perception of how her father viewed her.
Emotionally Absent Fathers 16 Participants were also administered a father-daughter questionnaire, designed by Perkins, to identify one of six father-daughter relationship types. Perkins (2001) labeled and defined the six father-daughter relationship types as: • Doting: a father who is disproportionately close • Distant: a father who is reserved, stoic, and controlling the family with silence • Demanding/Supportive: a father who treats sons and daughters equally and who expects and demands that children strive to succeed, but is also supportive and empathic to their needs • Absent: a father who abandoned the family while the daughter was still young in age • Domineering: a father who expects and demands much while giving little, if any, support and empathy • Seductive: defined as the sexually abusive father The results indicate that daughters of Doting fathers feel they lack psychological permission to differ from their fathers. Daughters of Distant fathers are likely to attempt to "rescue" their silent fathers by forming an alliance, if only in their minds, with their fathers to the point of separating themselves from their mothers and other family members. Daughters of Demanding/ Supportive fathers identify with their fathers, but also feel they have psychological permission to
Emotionally Absent Fathers 17 differ from their fathers. Daughters of both Absent and Seductive fathers feel misunderstood and separated from their fathers (Perkins, 2001). Morgan and Wilcoxon (1998, 2003) report that daughters who feel close to their fathers develop a more positive self-esteem and greater satisfaction with life. This close relationship is manifested in the father's showing of approval, willingness to help, and affection, both verbal and physical. They go on to say that the amount of love daughters receive from fathers can impact their mental health, and that a daughter's self image can be molded by the way her father responds to her. Women whose fathers were demanding yet also energetic, encouraging, and supportive were highly successful both academically and interpersonally. In contrast, women whose fathers were aloof and demanding without offering support and love achieved academically, but were less successful in their interpersonal lives and often times emotionally disconnected from others (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 2003). Morgan and Wilcoxon (1998) determined five relationship patterns based on their research that are comparable to the patterns identified by Perkins (2001). Pattern one states that daughters who conform to rigid, traditional gender roles based on their father's expectations and his "negative, rigid view of sexuality" often have hampered social and sexual development. In terms of problem solving, these fathers emphasize the interpersonal aspect rather than teaching how to solve the problem, often times fixing the problem themselves. Not only can
Emotionally Absent Fathers 18 this foster a dependency on men, but it also leaves these daughters lacking autonomy and feeling incompetent (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). Pattern two is the absent father, whether from desertion, rejection, or neglect. Daughters in this relationship pattern take on the blame of their father's abandonment, feeling it was their shortcomings that drove him away. They often go from man to man trying to hide the rejection they feel. There are two distinct sub-patterns within pattern two, which are dependent on whether the father left the home through divorce or other choice, or whether the father died. Daughters of divorcees tend to seek male attention and initiate more physical contact with men. Daughters of widows avoid men and are anxious around them (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). Pattern three is the over involved father. These fathers choose to invest all their time in their daughters and, as a result, the daughters tend to over identify with their fathers. No other man can compete or live up to their father. These women often replace sexuality with achievements. In addition, these women experience much interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). Pattern four is the overindulgent, overprotective father. These fathers induce a sense of dependency and emotional instability in their daughters. They create a controlling, and often times smothering, environment that does not promote their daughters' intellectual growth or autonomy (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998).
Emotionally Absent Fathers 19 Pattern five occurs when the father-daughter boundary has dissolved. These fathers rely on their daughters to meet their emotional needs, usually occurring in the absence of emotional support between parents. These daughters suppress their autonomy and display lower commitment to values and beliefs. Daughters in this pattern adopt a "compliant, placating relational style," have low self-esteem, and are often more depressed and anxious when compared to their counterparts (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). How over-involved fathers impact daughters' development. As has been previously touched upon, some fathers become overly attentive to their daughters, which can be as damaging to a woman's development as an absent father. In these situations, daughters become enmeshed with their fathers. These women suppress their autonomy and experience developmental problems in their intellectual and emotional capacity (Goulter & Minninger, 1993; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 2003; Perkins, 2001). Daughters who were pampered, spoiled, or overindulged by their fathers are trained to be helpless and dependent on others, especially on men. They are taught that the world will take care of them; therefore there is no need for them to learn to care for themselves (Goulter & Minninger, 1993). Sometimes these fathers spoil their daughters because they feel it is the right thing to do. Other fathers enjoy the god-like feeling they derive from it. Whatever their motivation, such fathers treat their daughters as "not quite human." Instead they are treated more like pets to be pampered (Goulter & Minninger, 1993).
Emotionally Absent Fathers 20 The pampering father creates emotional instability in his daughter and does not promote her intellectual development. Some women have difficulty developing a sense of autonomy, feeling that they do not have permission from their fathers to be different. Jackie Kennedy is an example of a pampered daughter. Although she was successful in many ways, she could not stand up to her husband's adulterous behaviors (Goulter & Minninger, 1993; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998; Perkins, 2001). Another type of enmeshed father-daughter relationship is the mentoring father, or what Goulter & Minninger termed the Pygmalion Father (1993). In this relationship, the father becomes obsessed with being a mentor to his daughter. Although this relationship appears positive, these fathers use their role as mentor as a form of control. This father does not teach his daughter to become independent, believing that women are inferior to men and that his daughter is the exception to that rule so long as she does what he wants. Daughters of the mentoring or Pygmalion father become equally over- invested in their father and over identifies with him. Often times the result of this relationship is that the daughter becomes a companion to her father and chooses his companionship and her personal achievement (which is for him) over the development of her own romantic and sexual relationships. Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna exemplify this type of relationship. Freud held Anna in higher esteem than her siblings and even her mother. Anna chose to be with her father
Emotionally Absent Fathers 21 and nursed him throughout his illness until his death rather than marry (Goulter & Minninger, 1993; Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). How fathers influence daughters' views on gender role and stereotypes Fathers tend to conform to stereotyped gender roles more than mothers (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 2003). Therefore, fathers' interactions with their daughters differ greatly from their interactions with their sons. They encourage more traditional feminine traits in their daughters by the way they interact with them. When faced with a problem, fathers will spend more time processing the problem with their daughters, but never actually help them solve it. In contrast, with sons, fathers spend more time problem solving and less time processing. Impact of Abusive and Absent Fathers on Adult Daughters' Sexual and Romantic Relationships with Men Goulter and Minninger (1993), in their book The father-daughter dance: Insight, inspiration, and understanding for every woman and her father, state that fatherless daughters, whether the father died or left the family, generally begin menstruating, engaging in sexual intercourse, and become pregnant earlier than their counterparts. Ellis et al. (1999) and Ellis et al. (2003) supported this claim with studies supporting evolutionary models, which state that daughters develop ideas and attitudes of parental reproductive strategies in the first five years of life. Ellis et al. (1999) added that daughters of absent fathers express more negative attitudes toward men in general, have a "precocious sexual interest in boys," and little interest in maintaining sexual or emotional relations with any one male.
Emotionally Absent Fathers 22 In 1999, Ellis et al. reported a longitudinal study following girls beginning the summer prior to their kindergarten registration through to pubertal onset. They found that later onset of puberty in daughters was related to the father's presence in the home, the amount of affectionate positivity displayed during the pre-kindergarten observations, and the amount of time fathers spent in childcare as reported by interviews with the mothers. They identified the fathers' investment in the family as the most important factor related to the daughters' later pubertal onset. The impact of fathers' absence on daughters was further supported by another longitudinal study that lasted 13 years and comprised 281 girls and their families, also beginning the summer prior to their kindergarten registration (Ellis et al., 2003). This study reported that daughters whose fathers abandoned the families prior to age 5 were more likely to engage in sexual activity and become pregnant earlier than daughters whose fathers abandoned them after age five or not at all. However, the girls who engaged in sexual activity and became pregnant earlier were also more likely to come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, belong to an ethnic minority group, have a low socioeconomic status, experience more family stress, and have poor parental relationships and low quality of parental involvement. Whether or not these other factors had an impact on the dependent variables is not addressed. Biller (1984) states that an adult woman who was "paternally deprived" as a child will seek male affection in heterosexual sexual relationships with men to
Emotionally Absent Fathers 23 replace the affection she did not receive from her father. Daughters whose fathers abandoned them create an idealized fantasy of their fathers that no man can fulfill. Therefore, they spend their lives searching for the fulfillment of their fantasy father (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 2003). Women who had difficulty getting attention from their fathers will choose the same type of men for romantic partners in an unconscious need to replay the same conflicts until they are either resolved or destroy the women (Goulter & Minninger, 1993). Many daughters feel that they were somehow responsible for the paternal abandonment and jump from man to man in an attempt to camouflage the rejection they feel. This behavior, however, has the opposite effect and leaves the daughter feeling rejected once again. They are, it appears, doomed to repeat the same pattern over and over again. Marilyn Monroe exemplified this pattern in her now infamous relationships with men (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998; Goulter & Minninger, 1993). Do Emotionally Absent Fathers Impact Adult Daughters' Sexual and Romantic Relationships with Men? Clearly, the father-daughter relationship is significant in a woman's development. Research has shown that fatherless daughters show a clear pattern of dysfunctional and sexually promiscuous relationships with men. But does this research relate to women whose fathers did not physically abandon them, but who emotionally abandoned them? A woman's future relationships with men are more influenced by her relationship with her father than by her relationship with her mother (Morgan &
Emotionally Absent Fathers 24 Wilcoxon, 2003). Kerig, Cowan, and Cowan (1993) stated that uncomfortable father-daughter relationships often result in uncomfortable relationships with men in adulthood. Goulter and Minninger (1993) are two of the few researchers to acknowledge that abandonment can and does occur under the same roof: "The pain of living with a father who just does not seem to care can be as devastating as outright desertion" (49). They go on to state that this type of abandonment may actually be more damaging because a daughter cannot create a fantasy that her father will return home to rescue her or dream away the reality that her father does not care. The evidence that her father does not care is available on a daily basis. The Role of Mothers in the Father-Daughter Relationship It is important to note that the father-daughter dyad does not exist in isolation. Outside factors can influence the relationship. The most influential factor is the mother. Secunda states that mothers are the gatekeepers of the father- daughter relationship (1992). She goes on to describe how mothers can foster or hinder the relationship between father and daughter. The mother sets the stage for how children view their father. Her influence is most potent on daughters because of the ongoing modeling that occurs in the mother-daughter dyad. While many mothers foster their children's relationship with fathers, some mothers become protective of their children, and view the father as a predatory figure. In these situations, the father is ostracized by the
Emotionally Absent Fathers 25 family and healthy bonds between father and child cannot be forged (Secunda, 1992). Secunda tells us that some mothers damage the father-daughter relationship because of their jealousy and sense of rivalry with both the father and the daughter. These mothers want to be number one with their husband, but daughters can sometimes take that position, at least during the earlier years. At the same time, these mothers are also in competition with fathers for daughters' affections (1992). When parents are undergoing marital or relational difficulties, a mother may use her relationship with her daughter to compensate for the negativity she feels as a result of the relational problems, thus monopolizing the daughter's time and affections. Other mothers use their daughters in place of the mothering they never received. Again, this monopolizes the daughter and the mother blocks the father-daughter relationship (Secunda, 1992). Daughters whose fathers are deceased tend to become anxious and avoid relationships with men (Morgan & Wilcoxon, 1998). Here too, mothers can be influential. Often times, in an attempt to protect their children from hurt or depression, mothers do not allow their children to mourn the death of their father. For a daughter, this can result in her never receiving closure from the death and feeling that she does not have permission to love another man, somehow believing she is betraying her dead father (Secunda, 1992).
Emotionally Absent Fathers 26 The most damage a mother can wreak on her daughter's relationship with her father is to abdicate her role completely, both as a mother and as a wife. The most extreme consequence of this abdication is an incestuous relationship between the father and daughter, where the daughter replaces her mother as her father's sexual partner. However, such a severe result is not always the case. More commonly an enmeshed father-daughter relationship results. Another form of abdication occurs with the death of the mother. When this occurs, daughters have no one to model, as fathers have difficulty managing the role of both parents (Secunda, 1992). Stepmothers versus biological mothers. It is important to briefly explore the role stepmothers play in the father- daughter relationship. Both pop culture and traditional fairy tales portray stepmothers as wicked. However, in some cases they can be a daughter's "psychological salvation" (Secunda, 1992). When the biological mother has left the family, a stepmother can fill the mother role for the daughter and the wife role for the father, thus allowing the father-daughter bond to develop smoothly. Sometimes, daughters can project their anger (from a divorce or death) onto the stepmother, freeing themselves from the anger that would otherwise be directed at their father (Secunda, 1992). Stepmothers can also be a rival for the father's affection. When a stepmother views her stepdaughter as a rival, she may try to separate the father and daughter to prevent them from having a solid relationship, much as the