- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

A nationwide poll on father-daughter relationships reveals that many American dads think they have strong relationships with their daughters but are not an important factor in determining their health and happiness.

Commissioned by the national nonprofit organization Dads and Daughters (DADS), the Roper poll found that 74 percent of fathers described their relationship with their daughters as either “excellent” or “very good.”

However, only 33 percent of all the fathers surveyed think they are influential in their daughters’ lives. About 45 percent of fathers with girls younger than 17, and 29 percent of those with daughters 18 to 25 said their “active involvement is vital to her health and well-being.” The number dropped to 26 percent for fathers with daughters older than 25.

DADS President Joe Kelly said he was surprised that many fathers do not recognize their importance in their daughters’ lives.

“That’s a real serious disconnect, because so many fathers are saying that the relationship is good, but it really doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Kelly, the father of twin girls. “Our definition of ‘good’ is not good enough.

“The challenge for us is to wake up to a fuller realization to how important we are.”

DADS is a national advocacy group that provides fathers with tools to support their daughters both inside and outside the home. The organization conducted the poll after being unable to find any studies on father-daughter relationships.

In April, Roper began phone interviews with 424 randomly selected men older than 18 who had at least one daughter.

Thirty-four percent of the fathers surveyed said they could improve the relationships with their daughters by spending more time with them. Twenty-three percent said communicating their own thoughts and feelings better would lead to improvement, and 22 percent said they should work harder to understand their daughters’ points of view.

“What daughters hunger for is more time and attention from their fathers,” Mr. Kelly said.

The author of a book on how to build and maintain strong father-daughter relationships, Mr. Kelly also recommends that fathers consult with other fathers to share advice and experiences.

Nearly half of those surveyed with a daughter younger than 12 said their biggest fear is that she will be physically or sexually assaulted. Twenty-two percent of all fathers worry that their daughters will not find a good man to support and take care of them.

Those with adolescent daughters reported the biggest obstacles to the girls’ happiness would be unequal treatment and discrimination, a popular culture that values appearance over personality, and the societal pressure for girls to be unnaturally thin.

Mr. Kelly called on fathers to fight for their daughters in a culture that often judges women by their sex appeal rather than their character.

“Fathering is a political act,” he said.

Members of the organization advocate an end to cultural objectification of girls and women, and they work to ensure equity of the sexes in school and sports.

Mr. Kelly said DADS plans to conduct the poll annually and might extend the survey to question daughters.

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