The estimable Prof. Linda Nielsen has done a lot of work on father-daughter relationships. She’s currently working on a second book on that hugely important subject. Until its publication, this article by Brigham Young University Professor Timothy Rarick will have to do (IF Studies, 1/16/19).
Rarick and his wife came across a man in London’s Hyde Park holding a sign that read “He clearly has bought into a belief that is quite common in our society today: Fathers are not very valuable and even useful to their children—especially to their daughters.”
Quite common indeed. For example, some 32% of separated British mothers believe men should play little or no part in their children’s lives (apart, I assume, from paying for their support). But, like so much of the popular discourse and belief about fathers, that directly contradicts the facts about girls’ well-being.
The dynamic between fathers and their daughters has been characterized by one expertas the most “fragile and unstable” when compared to other parent-child relationships. It can be further described as one of the most powerful and vital relationships to individuals, communities, and nations. For instance, fathers have a profound impact on their daughters’ body image, clinical depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, to name but a few.
But of all the unique contributions a father makes in his daughter’s life, perhaps there is none of greater significance than in the area of sexual development and activity and romantic relationships.
· Numerous studies have discovered female pubertal timing occurs later in girls whose fathers are consistently present in their life.
· An extensive body of research has revealed that early pubertal maturation in girls is associated with a variety of negative biological, psychological, and social outcomes, including, mood disorders, substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy, and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.
· Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.None of that is new; we’ve known it for decades, but of course it’s worth repeating to a culture that seems bent on believing the most bizarre and unsupportable notions about fathers and children. But, to his credit, Rarick takes the matter a step further.
Sadly, many adolescent girls in our sexualized Western world today find themselves in a tragic predicament. The conditions in our culture of both rampant fatherlessness and sexual promiscuity are incompatible with forming secure and healthy relationships with boys and with establishing stable families for the next generation. A young girl’s sexual development can significantly outpace her neurological and emotional development—the very resources needed to guide her sexual choices.What he might have added is that gender feminism has always been an avid supporter of fatherlessness. For at least 40 years now, gender feminism has promoted the notion that women don’t need men at all and certainly not to raise a child. They’ve told us that the family is the most dangerous place for women and girls. They’ve told us that, since women can do anything that men can, men are only good as a source of money. To that end, they’ve turned away from the egalitarian feminist desire to place more of the childcare burden on fathers so mothers can work and earn more, and toward greater transfers of wealth in the guise of “child support” and “spousal support.” Gender feminists have always opposed shared parenting and any legislation that would reform child support or alimony.
And of course “sex positive” feminism has always encouraged women to behave sexually as much like men as possible. With the pill readily available and very inexpensive, that take on women’s sexuality found favor with many women and still does.
The problem, as usual with extremist feminism, is that it ignores the biology of the matter. Feminism generally has always erroneously described male-female relationships as primarily a matter of politics, i.e. a power dynamic. So it’s no surprise that the 1847 Declaration of Sentiments was a self-consciously political document. The same has held true through the battles of First Wave feminism for the vote, Second Wave feminism for other rights and opportunities, books like Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, all the way to today when we’re routinely told by feminists that men are powerful and privileged and women, aren’t.
The reality is that male-female relationships are now and always have been far more a matter of biology than anything else. Women were once girls and, until very recently, girls had fathers present in their lives. They formed attachments to them that were purely a matter of biochemistry and their fathers did likewise. As Rarick says, that early connection predicts how a girl will act toward men when she’s an adult and much, much more. The irony for feminists being that, when a girl has a strong attachment to a present father, she’s much more likely than girls without that attachment to grow into a strong, healthy woman, i.e. the type of woman feminists claim they desire. The feminist attack on fathers, men and the family tends strongly to produce women who form dysfunctional relationships with men, or none at all.
Gender feminists don’t like it, but they ignore biology at their peril. For far too long we’ve pretended that the feminist narrative of male-female relationships deserves respect. It doesn’t. It deserves the ash can. Sensible scientists like Rarick, Nielsen and countless others point us in the right direction, but they can’t make us go there.
Only we can do that.