Father Attachment Predicts Adolescent Girls’ Social and Emotional Development

Posted by: Reena Sandhu on April 1, 2014 3:48 pm

The principle focus of research on parental attachment and involvement has been about mothers and their young children, with the role of fathers relatively neglected. In addition, the study of father–child relational processes during the adolescent period has been meager, compared to mother–child influences during adolescence. The few studies on father–adolescent relationships rarely focus on the father–daughter attachment bond. Dr. Sandhu’s research study aimed primarily to consider the nature of father attachment on the social and emotional development of adolescent girls. The variables of interest were Father Attachment, Social Problems, Social Competence, and Internalizing Behavioral Problems, as perceived by adolescent girls. The archival survey data for this study were gathered from 246 adolescent females from a Catholic school between the ages of 14 and 16 years old who participated in Dr. Ferrari’s 2008 study on “Attachment, personal resources and coping in trait-anxious adolescent girls.”

Results supported the proposed hypotheses, revealing statistically significant correlations among perceived quality of Father Attachment, and adolescent girls’ Social Competence, Social Problems, and Internalizing Behavioral Problems. Together, Father Attachment, Social Competence and Social Problems accounted for over half of the variance (54.5%) of Internalizing Behavioral Problems. In addition, Father Attachment and Social Problems each uniquely predicted Internalizing Behavioral Problems in a standard multiple regression analysis. However, once Father Attachment and Social Problems were accounted for, the relationship between Social Competence and Internalizing Behavioral Problems was no longer significant.

Incorporating these findings in prevention and treatment programs could prove to be crucial, particularly for programs aimed at promoting emotional well being among adolescent girls. Specifically, these findings are important for mental health therapists on several levels. When compared to mothers, fathers rarely are included by clinicians to participate in the treatment of their children’s psychological problems. This pattern is true for single parents (e.g., separated, divorced, or never-married parents) and married or remarried parents. Offering father–daughter treatment in therapy may have important ramifications for the effectiveness of the therapy, as there has been empirical evidence that engaging fathers in therapy can enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of those services. Perhaps more educational efforts, such as highlighting the influence fathers have on their adolescent daughters’ psychosocial development, could help therapy seem more appealing to fathers. In this realm of educational training, graduate programs should include more extensive training on family systems to alert therapists to the importance of father attachment on their adolescent daughters’ psychosocial development.

Furthermore, the findings indicated that social problems place adolescent girls in Catholic schools at risk for developing internalizing behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints, but also inhibit social competence in girls. This interaction likely has a bidirectional and transactional influence on each element; that is, social problems lead to internalizing behavioral problems, which in turn leads to more social problems. These findings are clinically significant for educators and mental health practitioners treating adolescent girls at subclinical levels of emotional and social problems. Specifically, research affirms that more targeted prevention programs are cost effective, practical, and beneficial in the long run to help adolescent girls with subclinical problems, compared to adolescent girls with internalizing disorder.

Dr. Sandhu’s research offers greater understanding of the role fathers play in their adolescent daughters’ lives and the influences fathers have on their daughter’s social and emotional development from the perspective of Canadian Catholic adolescent girls’ self-reports. The current study adds to the limited existing literature on father–daughter attachment. However, more research is needed to fully understand fatherhood as a construct and to make the role of fathers one that is publically visible and highly appreciated.

By: Dr. Reena Sandhu


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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