FEATURE

The Father-Daughter Relationship and Girls' Body Confidence: Where Do Dads Fit In?

Father-Daughter Relationship

Dads shouldn’t back off during their daughters’ teenage years. In fact, when it comes to girls’ body-confidence, they may be needed now more than ever. Understanding the role her father plays is key.

From changing nappies to putting her hair in pigtails and teaching her how to cook, today’s dads are more involved than ever in the upbringing of their daughters. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Dr Linda Nielsen, expert on father-and-daughter relationships, writing in the College Student Journal, offers an explanation: “Throughout the 1950s, there was a growing concern that boys were becoming too feminine as a result of being raised by overly protective mothers… [so] fathers were urged to be more involved with their sons as a way of protecting the ‘manhood’ of the next generation.” Society often sent the message that mothers were best at raising daughters, while fathers should focus on their sons.

These days, it is increasingly common to see fathers at the school gate or pushing the buggy to playgroup. But what about when our little girls start turning into young women?

The importance of fathers in daughters’ lives during the teenage years

Although much investigation has focused on the mother-daughter bond in relation to girls’ body-confidence and self-esteem, a growing body of evidence underscores the importance of dads’ role in parenting girls.

Daughters of fathers who are emotionally distant are more likely to struggle with conflicts around food and weight, according to clinical psychologist and author Dr Margo Maine in her book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness.

Leading psychotherapist and author Dr Susie Orbach says: “The more a dad is involved in a hands-on way, from when she is a baby and a toddler, the more he will know her – and puberty and adolescence will be just one more phase like starting school. The less he is involved, the more he will be cautious around her and her body.”

As for those dads who haven’t had a great deal of interaction with their girls up until now, it’s never too late to start.

The role of a father when talking about puberty and sexuality

Even the most seasoned fathers can struggle and feel embarrassed when it comes to exploring certain issues with their daughters…

Read more at The Dove Self-Esteem Project website

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Bio

Sharon HeadshotSharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing.

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Bio

Sharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a lengthy career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing. After backpacking throughout Mexico, Southeast Asia, and much of South America, she found her second home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was there she committed herself to writing. She studied the craft, joined a writer's group (Thursdays@Three), and experimented with various styles of fiction and non-fiction, which led to her participation as an author, editor, and presenter at the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires in 2008 and 2009 representing the US Embassy.

Today, she is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to medicine, web design, the American justice system, wind technology, anthropology, psychology, and the English and Spanish languages. She has authored textbooks and several online courses for colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Latin America. From authoring white papers to copy editing university-level exams, from ghostwriting for bestselling authors to development editing quarterly and annual reports, Sharon's experience is far-reaching.

She especially enjoys combining her love of the written word with her passion for body image activism and feminism. She regularly writes for Herizons, Canada's leading feminist magazine, and most recently, has contributed to Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago), an anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."

Since 2009, she has acted as co-editor for AdiosBarbie.com, a website that promotes healthy body image and identity for people of all sizes, ages, races, cultures, abilities, and sexual identities and orientations, in addition to being a virtual member of the London-based AnyBody team, part of the international movement Endangered Bodies. Sharon's work with AnyBody inspired her to organize Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body in Buenos Aires, one of five international summits held in March 2011. Subsequently, she founded AnyBody Argentina, the Buenos Aires chapter of Endangered Bodies, which fights against sizeism and promotes healthy body image for Argentine girls and women, issues that Sharon writes about in both English and Spanish. As of January 2013, Sharon has been a member of the Global Advisory Board for the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

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Proud Contributor to:

Fifty Shades of FeminismPublished in March 2013, Sharon contributes "Owning the F-word" to this anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."

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