Women have risen economically, professionally and academically since the 70s, but these accomplishments don’t substitute for a father’s love.
Dr. Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, has just released her new book, “Our Fathers, Ourselves,” which attests that father-daughter relationships remain a crucial part of development for girls.
Of the 75 women Dr. Drexler interviewed, the research psychologist wrote, “No matter how successful they were or how much they had achieved, and no matter how content they were in their own marriages and the families they had formed, they still wanted and in some cases hungered for their fathers’ love and approval.”
As a woman who became fatherless at age three when her dad died of a heart attack, Dr. Drexler was intrigued by the concept of father-daughter bonds. Dr. Drexler explained to The Daily Caller that a woman would still seek her father’s approval even if he was abusive, negligent, out of her life or deceased.
When asked how a fatherless female could seek her non-existent dad’s approval, Dr. Drexler told TheDC, “I believe a maternal and paternal image is hardwired into our unconscious and in that sense primal. Paternal experiences need not be with a live-in father. Grandfathers, god fathers (or their equivalent), uncles, family friends, coaches, teachers and caretakers can and do provide figures for play, mentoring, loving, sharing childhood fantasies, and imparting meaning and experience in relating to men.”
Though her father was gone for much of her upbringing, Dr. Drexler says this didn’t affect how she connected with males.
“I have never had a problem relating to men,” Dr. Drexler told TheDC. “I can’t say I always understand them. But that’s a big club.”
This wasn’t the case for all the women Dr. Drexler interviewed, however.
“A father is the first man in a daughter’s life; her introduction into the world of men, her learning experience,” Dr. Drexler told TheDC. “Some women in my study who grew up without fathers or had bad relationships with their fathers report an unease with men – even with casual relationships and banter at work. Is that a deep-seated emotional issue, or is it just missing out on some formative experiences? It’s impossible to generalize.”
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, told TheDC that a father’s presence is necessary for young girls.
“Social Science and personal experience clearly illustrates that fathers are essential to the health of their daughters,” Nance told TheDC. “Whether it is protecting them from becoming a victim of crime to emotional security to a healthy self image, daddies matter. Radical feminism tried to dismiss this fact and ended up looking foolish.”
This doesn’t mean mothers are any less important than fathers, Nance added.
“None of this minimizes in any way the need for Mom. It’s just that simply put, kids need both,” Nance told TheDC.
But as Dr. Drexler observed, girls are much more likely to make excuses for their dads and shrug off their fathers’ flaws and foibles than those of their mothers. One woman, whose daughter gained a noticeable amount of weight during a European study abroad trip, decided not to say a word about her child’s heftier frame. Yet when the woman’s husband remarked on their daughter’s voluptuous figure, the young girl assumed her mother had convinced him to make the comment in the first place, as if the dad could do no wrong.
“I was struck by how badly these women wanted a close relationship with their dads — even with fathers who didn’t deserve a place in their lives at all,” Dr. Drexler wrote in a Huffington Post piece published Tuesday. “What fascinated me in the women was love in the face of imperfection — sometimes unthinkable imperfection. There was amazing elasticity in what they were willing to forgive. Fathers are that powerful. These women want closeness with them that much.”