The ties that bind dads and daughters

The ties that bind dads and daughters


The year I graduated high school, shortly before I left home, my Dad and I stripped down the gearbox of a car and reassembled it over about four weeks.

Together in the Canberra cold of our shed, he taught me about spanners, problem-solving, logic and a couple of well-chosen swear words. At the end, as the car slipped smoothly from neutral to first then second, and third, we sipped on a cold VB.

It’s one of my favourite memories...quality time spent together, shooting the breeze with a tangible sense of accomplishment as a result.

Turns out he was onto something because according to the ABC and university researchers, the bond between dads and their daughters is strengthened by moments like these.

Relationships built on activity

In an opinion piece for the ABC, Madonna King explained she had recently conducted extensive research for an upcoming book entitled Fathers and Daughters.

As part of the process, she sought out the opinions of 1300 girls and 400 dads to find the bonds that tied them together, especially during those “tricky adolescent years”.

And a couple of themes emerged…

“Going to the football, watching the swimming on television, mucking around in the pool, hiking, camping, learning to drive, planning a school project, bike riding — activities. Ask a girl about a searing memory showing a bond with their father and chances are it will involve an activity,” King noted.

Father-daughter relationships – a study

In 2013, Baylor University released a study on the game-changing moments in father and daughter relationships.

Like King, they found shared activities were a pivotal point, beyond life-changing events like when a daughter marries or leaves home.

"This is the masculine style of building closeness - called 'closeness in the doing' - whereas the feminine orientation is talking, 'closeness in the dialogue,'" researcher and professor Mark T Morman explained.

The study found the standout activity that bonded fathers and daughters was sport - an activity that often saw daughters at the centre of their dad’s attention and fostered “an intimacy in which the father is the "primary playmate" as daughters learn to compete, take risks and stand up for themselves”.

But sport wasn’t the only activity noted. Working together was another shared activity participants recalled, as well as vacationing, and learning to drive.

Fostering the bond

The “closeness in the doing” may be regarded as a pivotal point, but the ABC goes on to note it doesn’t have to be restricted to sport and big-ticket events.

Everyday rituals like taking time out for a coffee or ice cream together can also play a role. Dr Briony Scott from Wenona told King this regular connection set the foundation for the ups and downs of life:

"You build the relationship as part of the ritual, and when life gets tough, as it invariably will, and they start to withdraw, you say, 'Well, every second Friday, we are having breakfast'… that independent relationship is pure gold."

What’s an experience you loved sharing with your dad?


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