The Effects of Fathers Not Paying Attention to Daughters

Whether a father always puts himself first, is obsessed with his career or is simply absent, daughters can feel the effects of not receiving their dad’s attention long into their adult years. Sometimes a father can be intimidated by the roller-coaster emotions of his daughter and withdraws from her to avoid being caught in the torrent of yelling, tears and frustration. While a father’s love guides a girl to see herself as valuable and special, his lack of attention can be deflating.

Emotional Scars

A daughter who longs to receive attention from her father and seems to always come up short can feel like she needs to perform better to merit his consideration. This performance shows itself in arenas such as setting higher standards and goals and improving physical appearance. A daughter can think “Maybe if I look and act right, he will like me more." She may never feel like she is good enough for her dad. A study conducted in 1992 by Draper and Harpending published in the Journal of Anthropological Research shows that absent fathers place daughters at risk for early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy 3.

Vulnerability and Anxiety

Another effect that daughters can feel when they do not receive sufficient attention from their fathers is never feeling satisfied in their relationship with their dad. Girls with siblings might feel a need to compete for their father’s attention, as if there is only a limited quantity to go around. A father's lack of encouragement can leave a young woman wondering if her boyfriend will leave her, if she weighs too much or if she should withdraw from making commitments to avoid letting others down.

Learning How to Relate to Dad

In order for daughters to grow in relationships with their fathers, it is imperative that they learn to relate to their fathers differently, according to Psychology Today 2. Some important steps include arranging counseling for your child, helping her accept her father’s limitations and teaching her to protect herself emotionally. Lowering expectations can also help daughters better relate to a dad who does not give his attention.

Relating to Others

When a girl’s father is not paying attention to her, it is helpful to build healthy relationships with other male adults. Grandfathers, uncles and ministers are typically excellent sources who can appreciate, encourage and build a girl’s self-esteem. These men can participate in special events, offer words of advice and simply express the girl’s value as a person. Seeing that healthy relationships are mutually encouraging can teach the slighted daughter that she is already perfect the way she is and that she should not have to work to receive attention.

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