Effects of absent fathers on daughters

Written by ashley schaeffer
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Effects of absent fathers on daughters
A good father is important for a daughter's healthy development. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Girls that grow up with fathers tend to do better in school, have higher self-esteem and become more independent than their fatherless counterparts. The less fortunate girls who grow up without a father figure in their lives often go into the adult world with a specific set of psychological wounds that can create some serious struggles in their lives.

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When a father leaves a daughter or becomes absent in her life, her natural reaction is often to blame herself and become fixated on her shortcomings that she believes resulted in him leaving. This can cause the daughter to have low self-esteem, which then affects many aspects of her life. This could mean lower performance in school and a general sense that she is unworthy. This negative sense of self often results in depression that may come and go throughout her life.


Girls who did not get to fully experience the love of a father figure as a child may find themselves desperately seeking to connect with males in their teenage years to try to heal the wound. During these years and into adulthood, they may hope that physical closeness and sex can replace and satisfy the sense of connection that they seek. When they are not appreciated or valued by the males they become involved with, it can reinforce the belief that they are not worthy.

Failed Relationships

Fatherless girls often have a deeply ingrained fear of abandonment and rejection. To cope with these fears, they usually develop a fear of commitment as a defence mechanism. In relationships, these women often strive for emotional closeness but then run away when things are going perfectly well out of fear that they will be rejected, which would reopen the early wound of being "rejected" by her father. This can prevent them from ever having a successful permanent relationship with another male.


One study showed that fatherless girls aged 12 to 17 were twice as likely to try drugs, alcohol and tobacco than their counterparts with both parents. An experience of emptiness or depression can lead these girls to "oversaturate" their experience, possibly to distract themselves from the negative feelings that are going on inside of them. Falling victim to an addiction can seriously damage her chances at education, a successful career and happiness in general.

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