11 Effects of Emotionally Distant Fathers on Daughters

The saddest part about having an emotionally distant father is the effects you may be struggling with now that you’re an adult woman. He wasn’t available when you were a small girl and now you have to deal with the consequences of past decisions that were out of your control.

But there’s always hope.

I tackle this post specifically with you, the adult woman, in mind. In knowing about these consequences, I hope you can identify what you need and seek help in embracing the future.

On the other hand, if you have a daughter, then I hope this post can somehow help in protecting her from an emotionally distant father, if any.

Research shows that daughters can have a healthy relationship with their father regardless of whether their parents are divorced or not.

In any case, let’s get into it!

effects of emotionally distant father on daughter

11 Effects of Emotionally Distant Fathers on Daughters

1. Difficulty in forming lasting relationships with men

Because your father was/is emotionally distant, you developed a fear of rejection, fear of commitment, and fear of abandonment that well translate to your present relationships with men. You also normalize any exploitative behaviors in them. With this toxic sort of tolerance and outlook, you’re predisposed to distrust men in general.

You’re looking for a father figure through the men you date but ironically, you gravitate towards those who share similar toxic traits as your father’s.

Your father is your first love and he’s set the tone for how men should treat women. Thinking his toxic behaviors were all normal, you didn’t dare to question them.

Related: 20 Signs of an Emotionally Absent Father (And Signs in You)

2. Sexual prematurity and higher activity

A study shows how the presence or absence of women’s fathers in their childhood influenced their mating behaviors when they turned adults.

The more emotional pain these women suffered with their fathers, the higher their perceptions of male sexual interest. This is consistent with past research positing that the less the father’s involvement, the more accelerated the daughter’s “developmental, sexual, and reproductive outcomes.”

These behaviors are anchored to your longing for a sense of acceptance. Another study shows that fatherless daughters are prone to be sexually active at a younger age and at a rate four times more than the average.

3. Constant state of needing attention

This is a natural reaction to living with an emotionally distant father. Even if your father gave you your basic material needs, you could not trust that you are enough and worthy of love.

This affects your present and future relationships. Unaware of your family background, people may see you as merely clingy and attention-seeking. This is why, at this point, it may be wise for you to be prudent in picking friends.

The need for attention has been out of survival. You did not have it in your childhood and now that you have a solid sense of agency, you’re only trying to get and feel what you didn’t. Don’t blame yourself.

Related: How to Deal with an Emotionally Distant Father (14 Tips)

4. Declining mental health

Your self-esteem is worse than you remember. You’re also suffering from bouts of rage, anger, and depression.

Research shows that a father-daughter relationship is indirectly related to the three basic psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. When daughters do not receive these needs, it can lead to poor mental health. Girls’ social responsiveness is also poorer than those who were praised and responded to by available fathers.

5. Overcompensation through alcohol, drugs, or work

Related to the previous point, you find yourself overcompensating for your declining mental health. This may be a form of self-medication when you should probably be seeking help already.

You may be feeling a sense of isolation. Your relationships, including non-romantic ones, may be suffering. This is due to your inability to hold meaningful and lasting relationships because you have not learned it from your father.

Therefore you’re prone to do anything convenient to somehow mask the pain. You don’t bother to do the hard work of dealing with it.

6. Repressing your true self

You could not be yourself, even when you’re alone, because for a long time you’ve been conditioned to be like that.

When you have an emotionally distant father, your feelings are the least priority, so you end up hiding what you’re thinking or wanting to say. Because if you did, you’re likely met with shaming or hostility.

Therefore it was wise for you to just keep the peace by being off the radar, invisible. It’s magnificent how the presence of your father could bring out a fake person in you.

Related: Why Do I Feel No Connection with My Family? 

7. Difficulty in sharing emotions

Many fathers find it uncomfortable when their daughters express emotions, thus they discourage it altogether. Your father may have chosen to become “emotionless” due to this motivation.

This also took a hit on your self-esteem because when your father showed no emotions, you also perceived it as an absence of interest, approval, or validation. You wondered what was wrong with you simply because your relationship was nonexistent, basically.

This makes it difficult for you to first process your emotions, let alone share them with others. You also think you’re only supposed to have “good” emotions. But negative emotions are normal. What matters is how you deal with them.

8. Trust issues

Your relationship with your father became your basis for your future relationships involving men. But because your father was emotionally unavailable, you turned generally distrustful. You’re always looking for some sort of proof from the other party that he and this relationship can be trusted no matter what.

The same is true for cheating fathers. Clinical psychologist Ana Nogales says 80 percent of children who witnessed infidelity by their father said it affected the way they see love and relationships, and 70 percent feel it affected how they trust others.

9. Envy, anger, or sadness

A mélange of ugly feelings constantly bugs you in longing for an emotionally available father. This is especially true when you see other father-daughter relationships.

These are raw emotions you have to deal with properly. If any, think of them as a sign that you need to take care of yourself and that your journey to acceptance and healing is just around the corner. These feelings indicate that something is wrong and you can do this without trying to involve your father anymore.

Related: Why Are Dads So Mean to Their Daughters?

10. Self-blame

You think that for some reason, it’s your fault. Then you start blaming your existence.

One thing I usually point out is that one, you did not ask to be born and two, your parents are fully responsible for your development.

This is worth emphasizing because you may be concluding, with no more hints, that you are mostly responsible for your relationship with your emotionally absent father.

The lack of communication paired with the mishmash of negative emotions can deceive you into believing you did not do enough to save this relationship. You blame yourself because there’s no other way to deal with it.

11. Poor academic performance and career outcome

Studies found that the absence of fathers with daughters is related to slower cognitive development and worse academic performance.

High school girls who lacked involved fathers tended to dislike and perform worse at mathematics than girls who had more involved fathers.

In general, children with available fathers are likely to have a more positive attitude toward school and learning.

The “father effect” covers teaching their daughters values like persistence, assertiveness, and work ethic.

You may have earned a universal dislike towards work or any enterprise that turns challenging.

Final Thoughts

These effects of emotionally distant fathers on daughters can serve as markers for where you could start on your way to healing. I encourage you to acknowledge them, face them, and do the proper work to manage them.

This is more for knowing yourself and understanding what you’ve become as a person.

You can always turn your life around, even if slowly. Perhaps the best part of all this is finding inspiration to break the cycle of toxic parenting, so you and the ones you love can enjoy an emotionally close-knit future.


Image Credits: Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

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1 thought on “11 Effects of Emotionally Distant Fathers on Daughters”

  1. Nailed it. Had you been watching me from afar all these years? Funny, ’cause I thought I’d picked up on just about everything!

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