A father, a friend

Deborah Pritchard

The effect a father has on daddy’s little girl

Imagine being in your room lying peacefully on your bed when all of a sudden you see a big, black, hairy spider. Who would you call to the rescue?

Freshman exploratory major Angela Kavadas said having a dad is great for rescues such as this.

“Don’t take them for granted,” she said.

Although a common misconception is that father-daughter relationships are not as close as other family ties, fathers can still be key figures in many women’s lives.

Assistant psychology professor Manfred Van Dulmen said people sometimes get the misconception from the media that if a person doesn’t have a father in his or her life, he or she is doomed, he said. This misconception is based on people’s individual beliefs and values, not on scientific research.

“Adolescent daughter research has shown that a quarter of girls don’t like to do anything with their dads,” Van Dulmen said. “It doesn’t mean they don’t want to do hang out with their dad, it’s just if they are together, they just hang out.”

“We know much more about problems in the father-daughter relationship than positive aspects.”

He said during adolescence most girls are perceived to become more distant from their fathers than their mothers. A common misconception is that fathers and daughters fight a lot. In reality, they usually have less conflict than mothers and daughters.

How people handle conflicts and deal with challenges has to do with how they will parent their children, Van Dulmen said.

‘It takes a village to raise a child’

Kavadas said even though she is somewhat distant from her father now because he owns a business and dedicates a lot of his time to it, she is satisfied with their relationship. She said her relationship with him has impacted her relationships with other men.

“I definitely have a guard up with any guy I meet,” she said. “Without a father around, you have to take care of yourself.”

Van Dulmen said there is some research to suggest that children raised in single-parent homes experience problems in certain domains.

“We also know if those relationships are high quality, they compensate for being raised in single-parent families,” Van Dulmen said. “Some researchers have strong feelings about the importance of fathers in the family household and I also don’t want to diminish that it’s important.”

Alexis Mundis, a senior political science major whose parents divorced when she was 3 years old, said she doesn’t feel like she missed out on having a father. She said her brother, who is 10 years older than her, was a strong male figure as well as her uncles and grandfather.

“Having an amazing mother also makes that a lot easier,” she said. “I think not having a father made me rely on my entire family.”

She said she believes in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” because she was raised by a village of people.

Mothers vs. fathers

Van Dulmen said daughters generally go more to their fathers for advice seeking, but if it involves personal problems, they would more likely go to their mothers.

“Moms and daughters will talk about almost anything,” junior psychology major Caitlin Faas said. “Fathers and daughters will talk about discipline, politics and religious beliefs.”

There is a lot of research on single mothers and daughters, but not a lot on single fathers and daughters even though those households are growing, Faas said. In 2002, more than 3 million children lived in single-father households.

She said there are a lot more court cases involving fathers trying to get custody of their children.

“Back in the day it was automatic that the mom got the kids. now it’s ‘OK, who is the better parent?'” she said. “They are just as capable as moms and even better in some areas.”

Contact student life reporter Deborah Pritchard at [email protected].