The Psychological Effects of a Father's Death on Daughters

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No one shares the same reaction to death. Although you know what it is and how it occurs, you cope in different ways than others. Your emotions are shaped by certain factors such as who died, how they died and when they died. When a daughter's father dies, she loses a major figure in her life.

Someone once very close to her is now gone forever. When coping with the loss of her father, she will experience many different emotions for the rest of her life.


Age plays a major role in the psychological effects of a father's death. Daughters up to 2 years of age have a difficult time understanding that their father is gone. They experience behavioural changes, including increases in crying and irritability. Daughters who are 2 or 3 years old spend time looking for their father, since things that typically disappear are found, such as in games of hide-and-seek. Daughters up to 5 years of age believe that their father will return, since they don't quite understand death yet. At this age, it is important to explain to the child that their father is dead and won't ever be coming back. Children at this age require special attention and extra love. Daughters up to 12 years old understand death and experience identity problems and feelings of helplessness. Teenager daughters are able to confide in others about their emotions, but they are able to hide them and may not how to properly cope with their feelings.

Cause of Death

The cause of the death of a girl's father is also a major contribution to psychological effects. For example, if the death was sudden and unexpected, she experiences helplessness, anger, confusion and pain. She didn't get a chance to say goodbye, make up after a fight or give her father a hug one last time. She's left to face the permanent fact of death against her will since there is less time to adjust. Expected deaths, although just as painful as unexpected deaths, give daughters more time to adjust. Since the death is predictable, daughters are able to spend more time with their fathers, voicing their feelings and enjoying their final moments together.


Grieving occurs almost immediately after learning about the death of a father. Many emotions are experienced during this time, but fear dominates all. For example, daughters fear they'll catch what their father had if he experience a health-related death. Since there is no right way to grieve, it is important to be open to various methods of grieving. Be open to talking with your daughter about the death if she asks about it. Seek professional help if your child experiences extreme emotions or behaviours that hurt herself or others.

Long-Term Effects

A father's death impacts his daughter's long-term emotions. Certain things will trigger her to think back to her father's death, such as car accidents, hospitals or strangers that look like her father. Her emotions will forever be a roller coaster ride. She might change completely as a person. For example, if she were once an exceptional student, she may now lack interest in obtaining good grades. Or, she may become more interested in boys in order to have a male figure in her life to confide in. Regardless, a change in personality is a completely normal and expected reaction to death.