Sports help dads, daughters bond, study says

March 13, 2013 by Barbara Bronson Gray, Healthday Reporter
Sports help dads, daughters bond, study says
Many shared activities can help cement relationship, researchers find.

(HealthDay)—Fathers interested in creating a sense of closeness with their daughters should look for fun things to do together, a new study suggests.

When researchers asked and daughters what experiences most affected their relationships in a notable way, they learned that girls seemed to appreciate engaging in the same kinds of things with their dads that sons typically do: playing sports, doing household projects, working together, or taking a road trip.

The male-female aspect of the father-daughter relationship can present a challenge for many fathers, said lead study author Mark Morman, a professor of communication at Baylor College of Arts and Sciences in Waco, Texas. Men usually get closer to other men by doing things together, such as playing a game of pick-up basketball or , while women tend to bond through heart-to-heart talks and sharing details about the day. Men are drawn to activities, while women connect through dialogue, he explained.

Fathers and daughters who find a way to bridge that gap tend to be closer than those who don't, and it seems typically to involve having the father draw the daughter into the masculine way of connecting: doing things together, explained Morman.

"We found fathers tend to pull their daughters to the masculine, to the activity orientation they do with other men," said Morman. Some men have anxiety about doing feminine things in order to bond with their daughters, he added. However, "the activity doesn't really matter as long as both people are interested," he said.

For both fathers and daughters, sports were most frequently cited for creating closeness in their relationship.

The importance of the father-daughter relationship has been understudied, said Peggy Drexler, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. "Years ago, the dad's job used to be to prepare his daughter to hand her off to a man to marry. The relationships didn't seem to have enough depth to study," she noted.

But Drexler said that changed dramatically in the United States with the passage of Title IX in 1972, a law that banned sex discrimination in school programs—both academic and athletic—receiving federal aid. "In the 1970s and 1980s, girls were suddenly viewed less and less as delicate flowers," Drexler said. "Sports became a great bridge to draw girls into activities with their fathers."

Drexler said that as fathers and daughters began to spend more time together, the traditional father-daughter relationship dissipated. The notion of a "daddy's girl" morphed into the idea that a daughter would go out on the field and make her father proud, she explained.

But the relationship between father and daughter often goes beyond sports, noted Drexler, who was not involved with the study. "Dads are now shopping for prom dresses with their daughters. They're getting involved in ways that are enhancing the relationship between father and daughter," she said.

The research, published recently in the Journal of Human Communication, involved asking 43 fathers and 43 daughters who were unrelated to identify in writing a time that changed the closeness of their relationships.

The technique—called turning point analysis— is commonly used to study family communication styles and issues, said Morman. "The assumption is that if I only ask you for one thing, you're going to tell me a really important one. Whether it's a positive or a negative turning point that affects closeness, that's pretty informative," he said.

Daughters in the study were at least 22 years old, and fathers ranged from 45 to 70. People with step-family and adoptive relationships were included.

In addition to identifying the benefit of shared activities, the researchers also learned how the father-daughter relationships changed at critical milestones: adolescence, a family crisis, the parents' divorce, graduation from high school or college, a daughter's marriage and motherhood.

For both daughters and fathers, marriage was the second most frequently reported turning point, creating either greater father-daughter closeness or generating a sense of distance. The third most commonly mentioned change for daughters was leaving home, while for dads, it was when their daughters started to date.

No matter what activities or milestones seem most important to fathers and over time, Drexler said a strong relationship between father and daughter can set up a girl for success later in life.

"It's all about time, trust, engagement, nurturing, empathy, interest and shared experiences," she said.

Explore further: Sports, shared activities are 'game changers' for dad/daughter relationships, study finds

More information: Learn more about parenting from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Related Stories

Sports, shared activities are 'game changers' for dad/daughter relationships, study finds

February 19, 2013
The most frequent turning point in father-daughter relationships is shared activity—especially sports—ahead of such pivotal events as when a daughter marries or leaves home, according to a study by Baylor University researchers.

Note to dads: Good parenting makes a difference

June 14, 2011
Father's Day this Sunday is a chance to recognize dads for putting up with all manner of nonsense that kids manage to cook up on the way to adulthood.

Mothers are the most responsible in transferring of sexist attitudes

September 30, 2011
A study at the University of the Basque Country reveals a link between the sexist attitudes of mothers and that of her sons and daughters. Published this month in the magazine Psicothema, the results also link gender and ...

Recommended for you

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Study listens in on speech development in early childhood

January 15, 2018
If you've ever listened in on two toddlers at play, you might have wondered how much of their babbling might get lost in translation. A new study from the University of Toronto provides surprising insights into how much children ...

Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and ...

Can writing your 'to-do's' help you to doze? Study suggests jotting down tasks can speed the trip to dreamland

January 11, 2018
Writing a "to-do" list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants ...

Study identifies brain circuit controlling social behavior

January 11, 2018
A new study by researchers at Roche in Basel, Switzerland has identified a key brain region of the neural circuit that controls social behavior. Increasing the activity of this region, called the habenula, led to social problems ...

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have no impact on overall opioid use

January 11, 2018
The introduction of tamper-resistant opioid tablets does not have an effect on rates of opioid use or harms at a population level, according to a new study led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.