By: Dr. Ayala-Encalada, Psy.D., LMFT
Were you, or someone you know, raised with a single mother and/or did not have your biological father around during childhood? Well, you are not alone. Research shows that currently about 83% of children live with their single mother, and at least 30% of those children identify as Latino/a. Single mothers can be seen as warriors and fighters, trying to be both mothers and fathers. As much as we are thankful for all the sacrifices they have done, that role that fathers play in a daughters life is crucial. Personally being a daughter who was raised with an “absent father,” I too encountered struggles in my personal life when it came to the topic of related to men. So lets take a look on how fathers are important and how they can impact our psychological well-being.
Traditionally, fathers were known to provide for their families financially. They also played the role of being protectors of the women and children of the household due to their physical strength and innate hunter/gatherer mindset. In more recent times, fathers have taken a more nurturing role with increased direct interaction with children as part of the child-rearing process.
Through research and in my own personal experience, the father-daughter relationship has been seen to have an impact on the daughter’s self-esteem, emotional health, body image, sexual experiences and connections with men.
For emotional health, happiness and psychological distress in the form of self-esteem are among the areas that are typically, negatively affected, due to the absence of a father in a female child’s life. In addition, body image and the thoughts we have about ourselves are very much connected with our self-esteem. Our self-esteem can impact the value we feel we have as females, especially as to the thoughts of what we can and should offer to men.
So, I am ready to start dating, what now? Research has identified that females tend to perceive their fathers as their “first love.” A child’s interaction with parents provides an opportunity for them to understand how they themselves should be treated and how they should treat others. Therefore, we may not know what to expect from a man when we begin dating, and can fall into an unhealthy relationship.
The good news is that you can still have a healthy relationship but there are things to be mindful about and ask yourself: 1) Am I in this relationship because I want to or because I feel I will not find someone else? 2) Does this person love/like me for me, or only certain aspects of me? 3) Can I really be myself with this person or do I feel like I put up a façade? 4) Am I happy with myself or do I feel like I need this person to make me happy?
If any of these questions sound familiar, and feel that you need help exploring these questions further, professional help is available. Do not feel scared to seek help because YOU ARE WORTH IT.
Written by: Dr. Ayala-Encalada, PsyD, LMFT