Girls develop a sense of self-worth at a young age. Whether that self-worth will turn out to be strong or poor depends largely on the kind of relationship they have with their fathers.
While it’s true that a girl can feel secure within the love of a family, there is nothing like the power of a father’s affirmation to help her have a strong self-worth, according to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
“I believe there are many approaches to instilling healthy self-worth in girls, but it begins within the security of a loving family. Specifically, it depends on a caring and affirming father,” Dobson wrote in an article.
“Moms are vital in countless ways too, but self-worth for girls hangs precariously on their relationship with their dads,” he said.
Dobson cited a book, ‘Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know,’ written by pediatrician Meg Meeker, which touches the impact fathers have with their daughters. According to Meeker, girls try so hard to catch their dads’ attention and to excel when she knows he is watching, and they seek their father’s approval and encouragement.
Dads have a powerful influence in shaping the character of their daughters, and this is a role that boyfriends or husbands cannot replace, the author said.
Meeker said a father influences his daughter’s entire life “because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.”
In today’s culture, where girls are exposed to sexual promiscuity, bad language and alcohol much earlier than a few generations ago, the strong presence of an affirming father is important, the author said.
Dobson described today’s culture to be “aimed squarely at female sexuality, beginning in early adolescence (or even earlier) and continuing into adulthood.”
“Without their fathers to protect and defend them, girls are often on their own against formidable forces,” he said.
A study published in 2012 found that a father’s love affects a child’s personality development more than that of a mother. On the other hand, a father’s rejection can lead to behavioral problems like alcohol abuse, insecurity, drug addiction and hostility toward others.
"The great emphasis on mothers and mothering in America has led to an inappropriate tendency to blame mothers for children's behavior problems and maladjustment when, in fact, fathers are often more implicated than mothers in the development of problems such as these," study author Ronald Rohner said.
A girl who does not feel loved and accepted by her father can grow up hardened by the realities of life.
Dobson encouraged fathers to “work at building your daughter’s self-concept throughout her childhood.”
“Tell her she is pretty every chance you get. Hug her. Compliment her admirable traits. Build her confidence by giving her your time and attention," Dobson said. "Defend her when she is struggling. And let her know that she has a place in your heart that is reserved only for her.”