I vividly remember my mother when I was a young boy telling me that the best thing I could do for my future children was to love their mother. It turns out that as usual, she (and my father) were right, especially when it came to my wife’s and my little girl.

Daddy issues it seems cast a long negative shadow over a daughter’s life. While on the other hand, loving, close father – daughter relationships, especially those with good communication, shine a bright healthful light on the daughter’s life and relationships.

Let’s take a look at the research on the bad side first. The National Institute for Fatherhood found that one in four kids in the US lives in a home without a step, adoptive, or their biological father. In these homes they have a four times greater risk of being poor, are more likely to act out negatively behaviorally, are at two times higher risk of infant mortality, are more likely to commit crimes, go to prison, become a pregnant teenager, become a drug addict, or drop out of school.

Daughters in father absent homes have specific vulnerabilities. Dads influence their girls relational lives, sense of authority, creativity, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Importantly, her attitude toward her sexuality and response to males in her life will be influenced by her father’s comfort or discomfort with her femininity and her body, and this is all the way from birth.

There is also nuance to the negative influence. One of the major negative effects that father absence has is making daughters have an earlier age of menarche (their menstrual cycle starting). This can have many unhealthy effects like a lifetime increase in uterine and breast cancer risk, lifetime increase in cardiovascular disease risk, and an increase in all-cause mortality, just to name a few. Studies have shown that in the daughters who are the younger siblings (perhaps age 8 and younger) are the ones whose periods begin earlier because they are younger at the time of acute stress.

This is especially true if they experience an abusive and dysfunctional father before the family disruption of divorce.

Research has shown for many years that young girls who grew up without their biological fathers are two times more likely to experience early menarche. There is even some research that shows that the presence of a stepfather correlates with girls early puberty. Relatedly, animal studies show that when the urine of strange males is placed in the cage with prepubertal females, the females cycles are stimulated earlier. The presence of the familiar and familial pheromones of the biological father may have the opposite and healthful effect.

This is the best-case scenario as the research on 36,175 15-year-old girls from 40 different countries across North America and Europe shows that earlier menarche is higher among those with living conditions other than a family consisting of two biological parents. Yes, in looking at all the downsides of a girl not having her biological father in the home as she grows up, the positives of him being there are obvious, numerous, and have a huge positive personal effect.

Life is messy and relationships can often be stormy though and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You may be reading this and have a stepdaughter you are raising.

Please know that the research shows that is very important that you have good communication between she and you. An added benefit for your stepdaughter is that the research also shows that for adolescent girls living with their stepfather, greater involvement with their stepfather’s was correlated with more closeness to their nonresident biological fathers. So, you as a stepfather cultivating close, highly communicative relationships with your stepdaughter’s benefit them on many different levels and can have a major positive impact on their lives.

A girls early relationship with her father, who is her first example hopefully of a respectful, loving male, sculpts her consciously and subconsciously, showing her what to expect and what constitutes positive and desirable behavior in romantic relationships.

It also hopefully shows her what to look for in a lifetime marriage partner. God has given us as men so much power to do good in this situation. We need to avoid what I call the Testosterone Trap with all of its temptations and distractions and stay focused on being the good husband and father, which is our deepest and most heartfelt desire at the absolute core of our beings. The very last verse in the Old Testament I believe illustrates the priority God places on this for us to live out:

“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land [a]  with a curse.” Malachi 4:6 CS

Let’s truly love our wives and thereby our daughters and sons and show everybody, including ourselves, the majesty of a God designed, loving marriage going the distance!