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How fathers affect the self-esteem of girls

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One of the things I have been talking and writing about recently is the current research showing the power and the affect of fathers on their daughters. It is extraordinary research. A few words from a father can have the same impact as 1,000 words from a mother. Why is it an interesting conversation? I have interviewed hundreds of girls who say when their dad says something, it goes right to their heart. When their mom says something, sometimes it can sound like white noise. Regardless of whether that is true or not, there is clear evidence that in general fathers have more of an impact on a daughter´s self-esteem than mothers do. There are always exceptions but that pattern is incredible. And so, as a girl moves into adolescence with her changing and maturing body, one of the worst things that can happen is a father making any comment about body image. I often say to fathers. I do say it with a smile. But if you say anything about your child´s body, your daughter´s body during adolescence, you better hope I am not around. And then I smile. But I do not really mean that smile because it can be really devastating. One word from a father can throw a girl into anorexia or self harm. If a dad says: Looking a little chubby, aren´t you? Do you really want that extra cookie?, we are stunned by the negative affect.

JoAnn Deak, PhD Psychologist and Author, explains the power and the affect of fathers on their daughters, especially the impact that they have on their daughter's self-esteem

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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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