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Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationships

11 Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationships

Having a daughter and having a healthy father-daughter relationship with her are two different things. Daughters deserve the same kind of attention and affection from their fathers the same way boys get it. As a father, it’s quite important to have a healthy relationship with your daughter. Daughters do require a strong male role model and that is something they can get from their fathers. There are various signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships that one can be on the lookout for. Understanding these signs can greatly help in improving the kind of relationship that a father and daughter have.

Every child needs to have a father figure and it would be devastating if your child can’t consider you as one.

Dads, inclusive of new ones might have an unhealthy relationship with their daughters. At times, this might be hard to realize as they are busy with their daily life. Performing the fatherly duty of proving basic needs is not enough for children. As a father, it’s important to connect with your daughter healthily.

Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationship 

Recognizing the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships is very important for an individual willing to change the current relationship situation. A large percentage of the efforts to change such a relationship is from the father. This is because they are the main reason for such a relationship. This doesn’t mean that daughter can’t do anything. They also have a role to play.

1. Emotional Unavailability 

We, humans, are emotional beings, especially women. Fathers who have an unhealthy relationship with their daughters are not available emotionally. This means they do not offer emotional support to them.

When their daughters need their emotional needs to be filled by them, they cannot do it. This might be due to one or more reasons with the common being the father’s lack of interest.

Emotion is a very powerful feeling and if not taken for granted, it can ruin a family let alone a relationship. That’s why is very important to have healthy and strong relationships. Many people argue that mothers are the backbone of a family. Since daughters will one day be mothers, it is important to bring them well into a family with a strong and healthy relationship.

This can only be done by being emotionally available. Fathers are the ones who make the pathway to such a future.

Recommendation: Be emotionally available to your daughter

2. Controlling    

A controlling father is one who wants to dictate everything. Such a father needs their children to do what they want. This entails even the slightest decisions about their children.

An overly controlling father is one of the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships. Such a father has control of the daughter’s life decisions and actions. This makes it impossible for the daughter to act on her initiative.

This level of control makes one unable to make decisions on their own and hence can’t be independent. As much as a child would love to be in control of her life, it’s not the case in this situation.

Recommendation: Understand that daughter needs to feel they are in control. Due to this, let them control some key aspects of their lives while keeping an eye on them if you have to. Don’t control everything.

Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter RelationshipsSigns of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationships

3. Comparison with Other Children 

A fact that will forever be is that children are different, right from DNA to personality. As a father, this is something you have to keep in mind about your daughter.

Yes, she is a girl like other girls in the community, but keep in mind that all girls are different. A father who has an unhealthy relationship with his daughter doesn’t accept this fact. As a result, such fathers constantly compare them with other girls.

If this is something that happens over and over again, then it becomes part of the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships. An example of this would be a father telling her daughter about how his friend’s daughter takes care of him. This is an indirect way of telling the daughter that she doesn’t take care of him as other daughters do to their fathers. If the daughter genuinely knows that she tries her best in taking care of the father, then the issue is the father, not her.

Recommendation: Understand people will never be the same, starting with their personalities. At the start of each day, commit to not comparing your daughter with other children and let it be so. With time, you won’t be making any comparison at all.

4. Unrealistic Expectations  

Every goal has to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Reliable and Timely). A daughter will not be able to meet an unrealistic goal from his father. This is the same way an employee is unable to meet an unrealistic expectation from his boss. Unrealistic expectations or goals can be detrimental at times.

A father who requires her daughter to meet unrealistic expectations has an unhealthy relationship with her. Fathers or rather parents should have realistic expectations for their daughters. This is something that they are sure that they will be able to achieve. If not so, it’s achievable by a person of their characteristics.   

It’s not bad to have goals for your kids. These goals do have several benefits for them. The one thing to have in mind while doing it is that the expectations are realistic.

Some unrealistic expectations include:

  • A father who expects her daughter to make dinner for the family by 1900hrs, when he is very much aware she gets at home from work at 2000hrs.
  • A father expects her daughter to pay for his bills when the daughter’s paycheck cannot cater for both his and her bills.
  • A father who requires her daughter to go and pick up her siblings from school when he is aware that she works late.

Recommendation: Always make sure the expectations you have for your daughter are SMART. So should be the goals.

Related: How to Recover from Bad Parenting

5. Manipulation 

Children have a responsibility to take care of their fathers. This doesn’t mean fathers have the right to influence their children to their advantage. Yes, a father can request a daughter to do something for them, but manipulating them to do so is not a good thing.

If a father convinces his daughter to do something so that he can benefit, then it’s a red flag for an unhealthy father-daughter relationship. Manipulation from parents has various impacts on a child such as depression.

Recommendation: Understand what manipulation can do to your child (negative effects). If you want to do something, do it yourself. Avoid or rather resist taking advantage of your daughter through manipulation.

6. Fear 

Daughters are not made to fear their fathers. When a daughter is constantly afraid of the father, then something should be wrong with their relationship. Fathers should be approachable and children should be able to have a real conversation with them.

A daughter fearing her father is among the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships. Regardless of the circumstance, a daughter should be able to express herself. If this can’t be possible due to anger, the relationship is unhealthy.

The same way a daughter can approach her mother should be the same way she can approach her father. They are both parents and they ought to hear them out.

Fear doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that is learned. This means a daughter who fears her father has learned to do so over time. The small bits of everyday fear file up and make one unable to express herself in front of the father.

Recommendation: If your daughter is afraid of you, let her know that you mean well and she doesn’t have to be. Help her unlearn to fear you.

Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationships

7. Father is the Ultimate Decisions Maker 

It’s true in a typical family setup, the father is the one who makes the final decisions (the head). As a child becomes a young adult, this changes, and one can make decisions on his or her own and be accountable.

This is not often the case with a daughter who has an unhealthy relationship with her father. Even when she has her own family, her father still makes decisions for her. This includes decisions relate to her family, her children, and to some extent being involved in issues related to her husband. As a result, there are unclear boundaries something that is detrimental to the daughter especially if she has a family of her own.

As a child grows, he or she should be given the freedom to make decisions especially after attaining majority age. If after this age a father is the one who makes decisions for a daughter, then their relationship is unhealthy.

When one is no longer a minor, there should be clear boundaries between them and their parents. These boundaries ought to be respected and decisions made autonomous.

Recommendation: The daughter should be allowed to make personal decisions and be liable for the outcome. At times, they should be given the chance to make family decisions.

8. Critic 

Constructive and destructive critics have different impacts. While constructive can make a positive change in a person’s life, destructive can ruin a good life.

A destructive criticism from a father is among the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships. No matter what the daughter does, the father finds ways to express a disagreeing or unfavorable opinion. Destructive criticism gradually damages the relationship between a father and daughter as the daughter realizes that nothing she will ever do and her father appreciates it.  

Examples of cases of destructive critics include:

  • When a father doesn’t appreciate the daughter’s efforts, instead, he creates distress
  • No matter the number of mistakes a daughter does, the father doesn’t provide improvement tips or suggestions
  • Whenever the father speaks, it feels more like a personal attack and the comments are often harmful

Under such a kind of environment, it becomes impossible for the daughter to develop. Since the father doesn’t take any step toward making a positive change in her daughter’s life, the situation gets out of hand eventually.

Recommendation: Stop destructive criticism by embracing positivity and constructive criticism as well.  

9. Narcissist 

Most fathers who have unhealthy father-daughter relationships are narcissists. A narcissist is a self-centered person. This is the kind of person who only values themselves and doesn’t take the feeling of other people into account. They act as if they are “the only important people in the whole world”.

The sense of self-importance and lack of empathy associated with narcissist fathers makes them belittle their daughters. Since they don’t see their daughters as their children, they end up having troubled relationships with them.

Some of the common signs of a narcissist father are:

  • Having an ego
  • Having an inflated self-image
  • Crosses boundaries with the intention to prove that he can
  • He lacks empathy
  • Sees the daughter’s independence as a threat

What is the effect of a narcissistic father on a child (daughter?) A narcissistic father has set a standard for himself. As their daughter, a child will try to fulfill these standards: something that is impossible at times. Since the father can do anything to prove something, this is not the case with the daughter. As a result, the daughter ends up having self-sabotaging behaviors since they can’t have the same personality as their father. In addition, the child ends up struggling with stable confidence and identity sense. The daughter is not a narcissist like their father hence behaving exactly like him, becomes impossible.     

Recommendation: See the value in your daughter and appreciate her. Recall how happy you were when she came into this world and you were holding her in your arms. See her as your angle and give her attention.

Signs of Unhealthy Father-Daughter Relationships

10. Lack of Communication 

The kind of communication that exists between a father and daughter is a reflection of their relationship.

In a situation where the father and daughter do not have a healthy relationship, the communication seems to deteriorate every day. They barely talk and when they do, it’s clear that something is between them more of a grudge even if they don’t have any drudge. At times, they might stay in the same house for a week or a month and not say more than 10 words to each other.

Communication is an integral part of any family setup, and even in the business world. Without it, it would impossible to undertake various activities. Also, it would not be possible for family members to take their responsibilities accordingly if communication is lacking.

Fathers have to be responsible for taking care of their daughters (children). Daughters on the other hand have to respect their parents. Lack of communication makes each of them unable to perform their duties effectively hence creating an unhealthy environment.

Recommendation: Understand the importance of communication in a family and improve it. Use a soft tone but be firm in your communications.

Related: Signs of a Bad Parent-Child Relationship

11. Unclear Boundaries 

In simple terms, family boundaries show how parents and children are supposed to relate and who is responsible for what.

Boundaries are important in any family setup. Parents and children should know at what point they are supposed to step down or even react. Having reasonable boundaries enables a person to have rights and makes relationships healthier.

Setting boundaries in a family do affect the way a family function but at the same time, they are good for parenting. Children get to understand so much when they grow up in families with boundaries. For example, they can express themselves more effectively and have self-control. This is why it’s important to know how to set up healthy family boundaries.

Having unclear boundaries is damaging for a family and is actually among the signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships. It leads to unhealthy parenting, frequent family conflicts, and other detrimental effects. If there is an unclear boundary against unwanted behaviors such as stealing, children will be stealing and it would be difficult to deal with them or stop the behavior.

Recommendation: Set clear family boundaries with your daughter. Let the daughter understand them.

Types of Unhealthy Father Daughter

A healthy father-daughter relationship can be a source of strength, support, and empowerment for both individuals involved. However, when this connection takes a turn towards the unhealthy/abusive fathering, the consequences can be deeply impactful and long-lasting, affecting emotional and mental well-being. This is because the relationship turns to be a toxic father daughter relationship. Below are the eight types of unhealthy father-daughter relationship (bad father-daughter relationship) namely: the authoritarian father, absentee father, overbearing father, critical father, enmeshed father, unpredictable father, controlling father and narcissistic father.

1. The Authoritarian Father

An authoritarian father is one who seeks to control every aspect of his daughter’s life. Decisions are made unilaterally, with little room for dialogue or input from the daughter. This type of relationship often involves strict rules and expectations, leaving the daughter feeling suffocated and stifled.

Daughters in authoritarian relationships find it difficult to develop a sense of autonomy and self-esteem. The lack of input in decision-making can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a diminished sense of self-worth. This environment hampers emotional growth and stifles personal expression, potentially impacting long-term mental health.

Recommendation: Communication is key in addressing the issues within an authoritarian father-daughter relationship. Initiating open dialogues about individual needs, aspirations, and boundaries can gradually break down the walls of dominance. Encouraging mutual respect and understanding can foster an environment of cooperation rather than control.

2. The Absentee Father

An absentee father is physically or emotionally unavailable, often due to work commitments, separation, divorce, or emotional disconnection. The daughter may find it difficult to forge a strong bond with her father due to the lack of consistent presence.

The absence of a father figure can lead to a range of emotional challenges for the daughter. She might struggle with feelings of abandonment, low self-esteem, and difficulty in forming healthy relationships. The absence can also result in a sense of emotional emptiness that persists into adulthood.

Recommendation: Healing begins with acknowledging the pain caused by the absence. Seeking professional support, such as therapy, can provide a safe space to explore these emotions and develop strategies for moving forward. Building a support network of friends, family, and mentors can help fill the void left by the absentee father.

3. The Overbearing Father

An overbearing father exerts excessive control over his daughter’s life, often extending into adulthood. This control can manifest in decisions about education, career choices, and personal relationships. The daughter may find it difficult to establish her own identity due to the overbearing influence.

Daughters in such relationships struggle to assert their independence and develop a sense of self outside of their father’s expectations. The constant need for approval and the fear of disappointing their father can hinder personal growth and self-discovery.

Recommendation: Setting boundaries is essential in dealing with an overbearing father. Communicate assertively about personal goals, desires, and boundaries. While conflicts may arise initially, over time, clear communication can help the father understand the daughter’s need for autonomy and independence.

4. The Critical Father

A critical father consistently finds fault with his daughter’s choices and actions. This dynamic is characterized by frequent criticism, belittlement, and a lack of emotional support. The daughter may find it difficult to please her father and might internalize his negative opinions.

Daughters subjected to constant criticism often develop low self-esteem and a negative self-image. The persistent feeling of not being good enough can hinder personal growth and lead to mental health struggles, such as anxiety and depression.

Recommendation: Healing from the wounds of a critical father requires a conscious effort to reframe self-perception. Encouraging self-love and self-acceptance can counteract the negative messages internalized from the father’s criticism. Engaging in positive affirmations and seeking therapy can aid in building a healthier self-image.

5. The Enmeshed Father

An enmeshed father-daughter relationship is characterized by blurred emotional boundaries. The father might involve himself excessively in the daughter’s life, making it challenging for her to establish a sense of independence.

Enmeshment can lead to an identity crisis for the daughter, as she struggles to differentiate herself from her father’s desires and expectations. Her personal boundaries may be eroded, making it difficult to form healthy relationships outside the family.

Recommendation: Fostering a healthy separation within an enmeshed relationship requires establishing clear emotional boundaries. Gradually developing interests, hobbies, and friendships independent of the father’s influence can aid in forming a separate identity.

6. The Unpredictable Father

In an unpredictable relationship, the father’s emotional state can change abruptly, leaving the daughter uncertain and anxious about his reactions. This unpredictability can stem from various factors, such as mood swings, substance abuse, or unresolved emotional issues.

Recommendation: Dealing with an unpredictable father requires developing emotional resilience. Seeking support from friends, mentors, or therapy can help the daughter navigate the emotional rollercoaster. Learning to detach from the father’s emotions while maintaining empathy can be a valuable coping strategy.

7. The Controlling Father

A controlling father manipulates his daughter’s emotions and decisions to maintain power and authority. This manipulation can involve guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, and isolating the daughter from external influences.

The daughter’s decision-making abilities and self-confidence can be severely impacted by the controlling dynamic. She might find it difficult to trust her own judgment and may struggle to assert her opinions in other relationships as well.

Recommendation: Overcoming a controlling relationship necessitates reclaiming autonomy and asserting independence. Gaining clarity about personal values, setting firm boundaries, and seeking therapy to rebuild self-esteem are crucial steps toward breaking free from emotional manipulation.

8. The Narcissistic Father

A narcissistic father seeks constant admiration and attention. He often puts his own needs and desires above those of his daughter, leading to an imbalanced and toxic dynamic.

Emotionally manipulating a daughter to serve his own ego can have profound effects on her mental health. She may struggle with feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, and an inability to establish healthy relationships due to skewed perceptions of love and attention.

Recommendation: Recovering from a relationship with a narcissistic father requires understanding that her worth is not defined by his approval. Rebuilding self-esteem, learning to recognize healthy relationships, and seeking professional guidance are essential in overcoming the scars of emotional manipulation.


In the same way, having children is a blessing, and so is having parents: but parents who are actually caring. Fatherhood comes with responsibility and that responsibility becomes more demanding as a child grows. The level of attention a father gives a son should be equal to that she gives his daughter. The above-discussed signs of unhealthy father-daughter relationships can be utilized in inspecting the state of a relationship with your father or daughter. If it shows any of these signs, then take the recommended action to make it healthy.

Most times, daughters seem to have a stronger bond with their fathers than mothers. So, father-daughter relationships should be taken good care of by both parties.


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