Supportive Fathers Help Reduce Stress in Daughters

Adolescence can be an especially stressful time. However, a series of recent studies suggests that having a supportive father may help reduce that stress, especially for teen girls. “Recent research indicates that father attributes are associated with psychobiological activity in young children,” said Jennifer Byrd-Craven of the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University, and lead author of the study. “The present studies examine the association between the quality of father– daughter relationships and daughters’ morning stress system activity, baseline stress system activity, and stress response to self-disclosure with a friend.”

A stressful family dynamic has been shown to cause girls to develop insecure attachments and engage in sexual activity earlier, while positive family dynamics have been shown to result in just the opposite. “Warmer relationships, characterized by emotional support and consistency, are associated with delayed pubertal maturation, monogamy, and heavy maternal investment,” said Byrd-Craven. “Familial relationships have been shown to be related to the activity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and its primary glucocorticoid product, cortisol.” Therefore, for her study, Byrd-Craven examined the HPA axis activity to determine stress levels.

In her first study, Byrd-Craven found that girls who had a poor relationship with their fathers had more emotional volatility and less inhibition than those who reported close, supportive father-daughter relationships. In the second study, Byrd-Craven found that perceived father-daughter relationships, good and bad, directly impacted cortisol levels. “Consistent with our hypothesis, warmer father– daughter relationships were associated with lower baseline cortisol levels,” she said. “By contrast, more negative father– daughter relationships were associated with higher baseline cortisol levels.” Byrd-Craven believes that girls who have been exposed to nurturing, warm fathers throughout their lives have developed the tools necessary to manage stress better than those who have not. In sum, Byrd Craven added, “On the basis of our results, it is suggested that HPA regulation, through warm father– daughter interactions, may serve to influence social cognition such that when discussing social problems with peers, women with warm fathers would be less inclined to focus on the elements of the problem that are uncontrollable or unpredictable, components of cognition that reliability elicit a strong HPA response.”

Byrd-Craven, J., Auer, B. J., Granger, D. A., & Massey, A. R. (2011, December 19). The Father–Daughter Dance: The Relationship Between Father–Daughter Relationship Quality and Daughters’ Stress Response. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026588

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  • Kylie


    January 4th, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    My dad was alway so hard on me when I was growing up, too fat, too dumb, yada yada yada.
    You can imagine how this worked out for my self esteem.
    It took me a long time to realize but I finally saw that I did not have to take this kind of treatment from him even if he was my dad.
    I had to come to the realization that he was taking out his frustrations about his own life on me. That I was better than what he told me I was and what I was going to be.
    Dads, good dads that is, can make for some strong beautiful women. I hope that all dads out there remember just the kind of impact that your words and looks have on your young daughters every day.

  • Jessica


    January 4th, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Interesting to see how risky behavior can be averted through family support.And yeah,a close father-daughter relationship is very special indeed.Gives the teen girl a feeling of having a protector to look up to I suppose.

  • Vanessa


    June 18th, 2013 at 5:50 AM

    My father was very supportive and protective. He never drank or smoke and imposed the same habits on me. He also didn’t let me go out with friends till the age of 24 because he was worried I would get a bad influence or become pregnant. This made me become very introvert and lose alot of friends my age and I now have friends younger than me. He has now passed away but I got to spend all my life with him and would not have got this if I spent it all with friends. I do sometimes look back and wish I got to party back then but I can do it now but what I can not do is spend time with him so this way I have no regrets and realise he was only protecting me from the bad world which I would have not been ready to handle. So i love my dad for his support and guidance always. His teachings will remain with me forever. I am very lucky and grateful to have a father like that and feel srry for the girls who dont have this.

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