APS Convention Report #3

This post is part of a series of reports on research presented last weekend at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science.

Researchers have noted for decades that children view their home environment and relationship with their parents as “models”, and that this is usually reflected in how these children interact in new environments in the future. For example, children who are exposed to highly aggressive parenting are in turn more likely to use hostility and aggression as means to attain their own goals (see our review of Hoevet et al. 2009 meta-analysis on parenting and delinquency). Children also model positive behaviors. For example, children who see parents reach amicable resolutions to conflicts are also more likely to learn better conflict resolution skills.

Following this line of research, some investigators have examined whether child exposure to specific bonding or attachment styles are also likely to affect how these children act in their own close relationships later on. To answer this question, a research group from Rider University examined the role of the quality of father-daughter bond in the development of positive romantic relationships during young adulthood.

The authors studied 78 teens and young adults (average age 19), who reported on the quality of their relationship with their fathers and their current boyfriends. Three specific relationship domains were examined, namely:  communication, trust, and time spent with their boyfriends/fathers.

The results:

  1. Girls with good communication with their fathers also had significantly better communication with their boyfriends when compared to girls with low communication with their fathers.
  2. Girls with high levels of trust with their fathers also had significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends.
  3. Finally, time spent with their fathers was not associated with communication, trust or time spent with their boyfriends.

At first glance, the data seem to show that the quality of bond between daughters and fathers, specifically communication and trust (albeit not time), predicts better communication and trust with their boyfriends. One interpretation is that these girls learn to create secure attachments with their dads, which allow them to then have more positive relationships with their boyfriends (more trust and better communication). It is also possible that fathers contribute to the modeling/development of good communication skills and trust, which affect how these girls interact with their boyfriends. However, it is also possible that this reflects an individual characteristic of the girls themselves and is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the father-daughter bond. That is, it is possible that girls who have good communication with their fathers simply have a specific temperament or communication styles/skills that facilitate the development of good father-daughter communication, and it is this individual characteristic that also leads to better communication with their boyfriends. But more than likely a combination of individual characteristics and child-parent relationships is driving this effect, which would be in line with previous research on the effects of adolescent-parent relationships in later romantic relationships. For example, Donnellan et al. (2005) found that both personality traits and parenting experiences during adolescents predicted the quality of romantic relationships in young adulthood.

All in all, the results are nonetheless very interesting in showing how the quality of father-daughter relationships may affect how daughters experience their relationships with their boyfriends.

The references:

Nemeth, Ansary, Seiden, & Keith (2009). Father-Daughter bonds and the quality of daughter’s romantic relationships: Are the two significantly linked? Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science. San Francisco, May, 2009. Dr. Nadia Ansary is at Rider University.

Donnellan, M., Larsen-Rife, D., & Conger, R. (2005). Personality, Family History, and Competence in Early Adult Romantic Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88 (3), 562-576 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.3.562
Hoeve, M., Dubas, J., Eichelsheim, V., Laan, P., Smeenk, W., & Gerris, J. (2009). The Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency: A Meta-analysis Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10802-009-9310-8

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12 Responses to Father-daughter bond affects the daughters’ romantic relationships

  1. N. says:

    It’s interesting that girl-father attachment has an impact on how the future woman will interact with her partner (further evidence for Bowlby’s ‘working models’), however it cannot be overlooked the working model of the woman’s future partner. What if this man was an insecurely attached child, and what if this model of interaction has been reinforced throughout many relationships? Will the securely attached woman be so commited and inlove to help her partner develop another type of attachment?

  2. [...] their daughters’ body image, thought process and relationship in terms of communication, trust and sexuality with their partners, for years to [...]

  3. Dawn Michael says:

    Hi I just wrote a series on fathers and daughters and I am going to include your blog in the articles. I am a marriage counselor with an emphasis on sexology and sexual dysfunction in marriage and one of the factors that I find continues to reoccur with my clients is the affect of the father/ daughter relationship on women and why they choose their spouse. There are many underlining intimate issues a woman may have concerning the dynamic of the relationship as well. I also stress the importance of fathers and specific lines that cannot be crossed when raising a girl and also what is acceptable. Dad’s are so important in a girls life!!!
    I am also a professional writer, so I wanted the public to get an idea on how a father/ daughter relationships can affect the future men that she will date and marry in her life. I posted them on hubpages under dawnM
    Thank you,
    Dawn Michael

  4. Robyn Ozelis says:

    Dr. Lopez-Duran, I have worked as a family counselor and am writing a blog for Suite 101 on how early family relationships affect future relationships. I have cited your article and enjoyed your thoughts and cited research.

  5. Dr. Lopez-Duran, I am a Phd student and a Clinical Family Therapist. I have been researching and writing and presenting in the area of father-daugther relationships for several years. Most specifically, my focus has been on African American fathers, their impact on their daughter’s psychosocial development and the social-cultural issues that influence their relationship stability. Most recently, I have started blogging on the subject and plan to cite your articles in my upcoming posts. I have enjoed your reading your posts.

  6. Robert L. Collier Jr. says:

    Very, very important subject matter! Would like to discuss this further with you in the near future. Thanks for your reserch it’s very neccessary….

  7. Psyche says:

    If the sight of a girl’s father cleaning his collection of firearms during a predate interview doesn’t affect a daughter’s romantic relationship, I don’t know what will. -http://psy.co

  8. Beatrice Perez says:

    I find this article highly untruthful. I have such a horrible relationship with my father. We literally hate each other and he is such a horrible drunk. And I have a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend. We’re very happy, and he doesn’t touch a drop of alcohol, honestly I just feel like this is untruthful

    • Thank you Beatrice for your comment. I am sorry for the relationship you have with your parent but glad that you found a healthy relationship with your boy friend. I wanted to clarify for others who may have a similar reaction that research is not “deterministic:.” That is, the findings of a study are not necessarily going to apply to every single individual. In contrast, the findings simply describe “trends” that are commonly observed. For example, smoking is associated with a higher probability of cancer, but many people who smoke does not develop cancer. That doesn’t make the smoking-cancer research any less truthful. :-) Nestor.

  9. anonymouse says:

    My father wasn’t around for 10 years of my life (I just turned 20) – we hardly communicated and I definitely had trouble trusting he would be able to do this or that.

    All my life I have seeked out long-term relationships with men, only when I found them, I had to break up with them because I either felt like I cared more than they did or couldn’t trust they wouldn’t abandon me. I’m seeing one now who I can say has been my most perfect match by far. He is NOTHING like my father :) I’m getting therapy on top of this, so it seems to be taking a turn for the better, although it’s still very difficult for me to trust he won’t leave me if I act a certain way, or don’t act a certain way..

    I find it very difficult for me to believe that I don’t act the way a person wants me to act, they’ll have any reason to be around me aka I don’t believe in unconditional love between man and woman. Hopefully, I’m getting there.

  10. another ons says:

    I never really had a great relationshiP with my father. I love him, yes, I really do but what really upsets me was the fact that he cheated on my mum many times. Both my parents fight and always think they’re the ones who are right. They’re divorced now. Now a days, I hardly talk to him. I miss him so much. I really wished I could have such a wonderful father. He wasn’t the best but I love him anyway. I’m 18 and I’ve never dated a guy. I’m afraid I will be a bad girlfriend because I have a very dysfunctional family. I’m afraid he wont understand. I feel I don’t deserve a great guy. I’m afraid I’ll be like my parents.

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