New research finds that women who had poor quality fathering or a father who was mostly absent while they were growing up—falsely perceived a greater interest from men they were dating or interacting with. They saw more sexual interest and arousal than was actually present, and more interest from the men in mating.
The downside of this is that these women are more likely to engage in risky or unrestricted sexual behavior—like hooking up with men they have just met, and answering booty calls with an eager yes.
This research co-authored by University of Utah psychology professor, Bruce J. Ellis and professor Sarah E. Hill and graduate student Randi Proffitt Leyva of TCU in Fort Worth, Texas emphasized that many studies have pointed to the importance of a father to a daughter’s sexual development and future choices in partners, but that no one has really explored how one leads to the other.
Some research has suggested a genetic cause, where men who engage in risky behavior have daughters who do so as well. But this new study says that is only a small part (maybe) of the cause. They found that when women were reminded of the painful and disappointing experiences with their fathers that this led to their false perceptions of a man’s interest in them. This perceived interest then led to an increase in their engagement in sexual behavior. Interestingly when women were reminded of disappointing experiences with their mothers it did not increase their engagement in sexual behavior.
Many of the participants came from intact families and had fathers present when growing up. However the level of engagement and the divorce of parents later on were significant factors in the women’s sexual behavior as adults.
The bottom line is that dads matter a lot to their children—and dads play a critical role in the daughter’s development, especially in how and who she will choose to become involved with as an adult. Divorce is also a factor as is how engaged a dad is and the quality of his relationship with his children.
Moms have always been seen as the driving force and biggest shaper of a child’s development and this study sheds a light on how short-sided that thinking is….sorry Dr. Freud.