As young girls grow older and enter adolescence, fathers often begin to feel a little left out. Suddenly, daddy’s little girl isn’t so little anymore. She’s likely to be less interested in toys and games and more interested in bodies, boys and other big girl stuff.
But while many dads are happy to step aside and let mom take over during this important stage of a young girl’s life, a recent study from New York University suggests that it might be better if they didn’t.
As part of a larger study that looked at family influences on adolescent sexual risk, Katherine Hutchinson, an associate professor at the NYU College of Nursing, polled about 250 women ages 19 to 21 to find out what kind of influence their fathers had on their sexual education.
Their answers confirmed what most of us already suspect: Moms are the primary source of information when it comes to educating girls about relationships and sex. But what might be surprising is that many girls wished their dads had played a larger role in teaching them what they needed to know as they entered the world of dating.
Hutchinson says that it wasn’t conversations about the mechanics of sex that the respondents longed for, but rather a frank discussion about what it’s all about from a boy’s point of view.
They felt that if they could have been more comfortable talking with their fathers about issues around sex, they might have been more comfortable talking to boyfriends or potential sexual partners about them. And they wanted to know how to negotiate intimacy issues with men.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a father should sit down with with his daughter and have an all-encompassing conversation about boys. That’s not only awkward for everyone involved, but ultimately less effective that having age-appropriate conversations over time in which the issues come up naturally.
As a former adolescent girl myself, I completely agree with Hutchinson’s assessment of what girls want and need from their fathers when it comes to discussing relationships with boys. Had my own father been a little more forthcoming on the subject, perhaps we might both have been spared a lot of heartache.
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