Daddy-daughter time

Relationships hold enormous power in the human psyche. Dissection of human relationships has launched thousands of movies, millions of books and billions (could we say gazillions?) of conversations. Like ancient crystals formed by the forces of nature, every relationship has its own unique quality and form. The relationship between the worker and the boss is shaped by the pressures and social codes of the workplace. The relationship between school friends is forged in the fires of finding your own way within the “system”. The relationship between gym goers is cast in lycra-laden shame but coloured by shared determination and pride. Yet none of these relationships is anywhere as powerful in shaping us as is the relationship between a parent and a child. In those familial psychic stews brew the nature of individuals and the hope of society. Now a new study has shown that one of those relationships, that between a father and a daughter, has some critical moments that shape it.

For the study, researchers surveyed fathers and daughters. None of the daughters was aged less than 22 and the fathers were aged between 45 and 70. Both fathers and daughters were asked to estimate what had been the pivotal points in their relationships. The results were illuminating.

According to daughters, the most frequently mentioned times were shared activities like playing sport together, which were moments when they felt closer to their father. It seems that shared activities like this allowed the daughter to feel the centre of the father’s attention. The same applied to when daughters worked with their fathers when they were older. In second place as a turning point was the daughter’s marriage, although some daughters found this brought them closer to their father while others found that it pushed them away. Leaving home was the third most mentioned pivotal point for daughters.

From the father’s point of view, again it was shared activities that were the most significant moments. Sport was the most frequently mentioned activity by fathers although household projects and teaching their daughters to drive also came up. For fathers, these shared activities meant that lines of communication were opened up. Similar to daughters, marriage was a second turning point for fathers and again some felt it brought them closer while others felt it distanced them. The third most mentioned turning point for fathers was when their daughters started dating, as this was a time when they had to begin letting go.

Distill all that down and what you are left with is that dads and daughters need to do things together. Shared activities facilitate communication and communication is the basis of a healthy long-term relationship that will weather whatever comes along. It’s not rocket science but sometimes the bleeding obvious needs a bit of research to get it some attention.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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Daddy-daughter time

Dads are always keen to keep in touch with their daughters. If the daughter is not physically nearby then a phone call will do. According to evolutionary psychology however, dads should not be too disappointed if at certain times their daughters are less keen for a chat.

In a new study researchers examined the mobile phone records of women in their reproductive years. They made a note of the date and duration of all calls made to their mothers and fathers over the course of the study. They then matched that phone activity against the women’s menstrual cycle.

The results showed that the women were only half as likely to call their fathers on the days during their cycle when they were fertile as they were to call them when they were not fertile. If their fathers called them during their high fertility times then the women spoke to them for shorter times regardless of who initiated the call. During high fertility call length was only an average 1.7 minutes compared to 3.4 minutes when the daughter’s fertility was low.

The reluctance for some daddy-daughter chat time could not be put down to a desire to avoid all parental control however, as call times and frequency to mothers actually increased around ovulation. At times of high fertility women were four times more likely to speak to their mother as to their father. Additionally, during high fertility days women spent an average 4.7 minutes talking to their mother compared to 4.2 minutes during non-fertile times.

These results are interpreted as reflecting that women tend to avoid fathers when they are at their most fertile. In evolutionary terms this makes sense as in other species females avoid interaction with male relatives during times of peak fertility (although marmosets are notoriously reluctant to give up their phone records to allow for direct comparison). This behaviour is a way of avoiding in-breeding and the negative consequences associated with it.

The news is good then for dads longing for a call from their daughter or who find them a little brief at certain times. Like all of us, daughters are subject to evolutionarily determined, unconscious forces that shape our behaviour; that is not all we are but it is part of who we are. So dads if you’re not getting attention from your little girl it might not be you or anything you’ve done; just wait a few days and things might well change.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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