19 Types and Signs of Inappropriate Father-Daughter Relationship

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The signs of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship can often be very visible but ignored due to the importance placed on the relationship between a father and a daughter. It is however for this very same reason that this relationship needs to be as healthy as possible.

An inappropriate relationship between a father and a daughter can be anything from an absentee father to actual incest and other things in-between with some of them being so subtle or normalized that the daughter does not even realize that the relationship is inappropriate.

An inappropriate relationship between a father and a daughter can be anything from an absentee father to actual incest and other things in-between with some of them being so subtle or normalized that the daughter does not even realize that the relationship is inappropriate.

Such a relationship can in the long term, damage the confidence and esteem of the daughter as well as make her a less attractive partner to other people because she would be unable to properly relate with them seeing as her father did not relate with her appropriately.

It is therefore important to notice the signs of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship so that the impending negative effects may be mitigated and the relationship saved in such a manner that the daughter will be able to live a better life.

Listed below are some of those signs as well as types of inappropriate father-daughter relationships so that you may be able to take action if you notice them.

Here is a related article on being a good father.

7 Types of inappropriate father-daughter relationships

1. Abusive father

Abusive father-daughter relationships manifest themselves with fathers who exhibit abusive behavior towards their daughters for a variety of reasons.

In the case of mental and physical abuse, it could be that the father is stressed about something and so often takes it out on their daughters.

There is also the sexually abusive father. While this inappropriate father-daughter relationship is not very common, some fathers have been known to be incestuous with their daughters and when their daughters are minors or are non-consenting adults, this is abuse. It could involve actual sex or lewd comments as well as touching in sensitive areas.

2. Emotionally distant father

This is a toxic father-daughter relationship that results when the father is physically available to their daughter but that’s just about it.

They don’t show much interest in her life and avoid communicating with her about it which means that in effect the daughter has no relationship with her father.

This can really mess up the daughter as she might begin to engage in destructive behavior in order to gain his attention.

It could also affect the way she relates with future partners as she might become clingy in her quest for the attention that her father never gave her.

3. Father who spoils daughter

Some might think that this is not a negative father-daughter relationship because the daughter is well taken care of but it is. When the father spoils the daughter, he creates a sense of entitlement in her because she will believe that she should always have her way.

As she grows this might make her a selfish and egocentric person who believes that only she and she alone should be pleased in a relationship because that was what her father did for her as she grew up.

There is also the possibility that this brings about feelings of hate and jealousy in the mother who might feel that the father is giving only the daughter attention.

4. Controlling father

This is just as bad as a distant father-daughter relationship even though it is the exact opposite of it because it robs the daughter of her freedom.

Controlling fathers want to be involved in every aspect of their daughter’s life from her decision-making to the type of friends she has and the kind of future she wants. They will often behave in such a way as to rob the daughter of the means to take care of herself financially so that she can depend on them perpetually.

There are a number of reasons why a father could be controlling and one of them could be as a result of a situation where the dad falls in love with his daughter and doesn’t want her to ever leave him so he twists her life to ensure this.

Here are related signs that a father might be controlling.

5. Dependent father

This unhealthy father-daughter relationship is one where the roles are reversed and the father begins to depend on the daughter instead of the daughter on the father.

In such a situation, the father would rely on his daughter for his physical, emotional, and mental needs thereby making it a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship.

The most likely cause of this is that the father is an addict of some substance and so becomes incapable of taking care of himself when under the influence which would be most of the time.

Here are other effects of growing up with a father with a substance abuse problem.

6. Overly critical Father

Such fathers cannot seem to see anything right in whatever their daughters do. They are constantly complaining about their daughters and belittling their efforts.

You will find these fathers comparing their daughters to others that might be performing better in a certain area or even to siblings which can have the effect of bringing down the daughter’s self-esteem.

It could also result in her constantly trying to seek validation both from her father and from any future partners she may have.

7. Bad husband

A bad father-daughter relationship can also result from the way the father treats his wife.

Children, for instance, are highly impressionable especially when it comes to their parents so if a girl’s father is constantly mistreating his wife by cheating on her or abusing her, the daughter might interpret this as the way she should or would be treated when in a relationship.

And even if the daughter is not a child, seeing her father mistreat her mother could lead to her developing negative feelings for him such that the father-daughter relationship would be broken in such a way that it could never be what it once was.

If the husband is the problem, here are ways to get him to respect his wife.

12 Signs of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship

8. Too much physical contact

It is totally okay for father and daughter to be physical with each other as it reaffirms their love. 

What isn’t okay, however, is when this crosses a certain line, and sometimes this line changes with age.

A father for instance is allowed to bathe his daughter as a child but as she gets to her teenage years, this becomes inappropriate and could either be a sign of or lead to sexual abuse going on.

Another instance is in the case of a grown woman. Some fathers have no problem giving their daughters a quick kiss on the lips when they are young. This, however, becomes inappropriate when the woman is grown especially if she has a sexual partner and could point to father-daughter love affairs according to some experts.

9. Sexual innuendos

If father and daughter often trade sexual innuendos, this is a weird father-daughter relationship and could be indicative of something deeper going on because that is not something that parents and children should do.

Take for instance a daughter wiggling her butt at her father or a father making suggestive gestures to his daughter. This is most definitely inappropriate and could point to an incestuous relationship if she is not a minor or sexual abuse if she is.

In the case of a minor, one should also watch out for the sudden use or increase in the use of words with sexual undertones as this has been noted by child psychologists to be one of the signs that the minor is being sexually abused.

10. Daughter behaves differently (negatively) around father

Another one of the signs of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship is how the daughter acts when the father is present.

If she suddenly goes quiet, fearful, or looks like she is avoiding him, this could be a sign that he is abusing her sexually, physically and/or mentally as noted by child experts.

11. Unclear boundaries

There should be father-daughter boundaries but in an obsessive father-daughter relationship, this is not the case.

Some of the boundaries that need to be formed for instance include regarding her room and phone because daughters should have their privacy which means that if a father regularly goes through his daughter’s phone or comes into her room whenever he wants and without knocking, this is a sign of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship.

12. Emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can come in the form of manipulation, silent treatments, insults, and even gaslighting, and according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, is one of the most common forms of child abuse.

Substantiated Child Abuse Statistics, Australia, 2014 - 15

Emotional abuse can go both ways meaning that it could be the daughter doing it to the father or the father doing it to the daughter. Regardless of who is doing it, however, it is indicative of father-daughter relationship problems and should not be taken lightly because it can damage the relationship in the long term and negatively affect how the daughter relates with other people.

13. Emotional incest

This happens when a father seeks the support that they should be seeking from romantic partners, from their daughter.

Some examples of this happening include the father asking for advice from their daughter on issues relating to their sexual relationship or seeking emotional support when going through a crisis. Even a father treating his daughter as his best friend or a very good friend is considered emotional incest.

Emotional incest creates an unhealthy father-daughter bond because the boundaries between father and daughter will be blurred such that the father as a parent, would not be very effective in parenting the daughter.

14. Daughter not allowed to have an opinion

In an unhealthy father-daughter relationship where the father is overly controlling, a major sign that this is the case would be that the daughter is not allowed to have an opinion on anything but rather the father decides on most aspects of her life.

For instance, he decides which school trips she goes on and who she can be friends with.

15. Constant criticism

Why are dads so mean to their daughters?

Well for the most part they aren’t but the fathers that are indeed mean, make it seem as though it is a trend.

These fathers (daughters) constantly criticize their daughters (fathers) in everything that they do thereby leading the daughters (fathers) to feel unloved and unappreciated.

The effect of this is that it would most likely lead to a broken father-daughter relationship that might be quite difficult to fix.

16. Intense fear of failure and disappointment

A daughter would not be overly scared of failure and disappointing her father if the relationship between them was healthy.

It is only an unhealthy relationship that would make her so scared because the father might react to it with abuse.

17. Limitations on daughter’s freedoms

A controlling father would seek to limit the freedoms of his daughter such that she would be unable to do anything without him saying so.

This is a creepy father-daughter relationship because some experts have said that the end goal here is to make the daughter so dependent that she would be forced to rely on her father for everything.

Signs that this is happening include the daughter being restricted from being able to make her own money by getting a job or her movements being severely restricted to ensure that she doesn’t get the opportunity to make a better life for herself outside the home.

18. Marital problems

One type of unhealthy father-daughter relationship that was discussed above was that of a father who mistreats his wife.

Marital problems that are as a result of spousal abuse on the part of the father are therefore a sign of an inappropriate father-daughter relationship because the daughter could be traumatized by her father’s behavior and find it hard to relate with him or with future partners out of fear that they might be like her father.

19. Poor communication

This is both a sign and an effect of a bad father-daughter relationship because limited communication between father and daughter is a sign of an emotionally distant father which is a type of unhealthy father-daughter relationship.

It is also an effect because poor communication might be the result of abuse which leads to either father or daughter(mostly daughter) trying to avoid having to talk to the other.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a toxic father-daughter relationship?

A toxic father-daughter relationship has the following characteristics:

  • Father is physically and mentally abusive
  • Father is controlling
  • There is manipulation from both father and daughter
  • Father is emotionally distant from daughter
  • Father is overly critical of daughter
  • Daughter is unable to fully express herself out of fear

2. What is a healthy father-daughter relationship?

When a father-daughter relationship is healthy, we see:

  • Boundaries between father and daughter are clear and respected
  • Daughter is capable of making her opinions known
  • Daughter does not get emotionally abused when she does something wrong
  • Daughter is able to engage in her interests and not only those her father wants for her
  • Daughter and father are not best of friends because there needs to be a clear distinction between parent and child

3. How the father-daughter relationship affects adulthood?

A father is more often than not the first man that a woman relates to so the relationship he has with his daughter sets the tone for what she believes should be the way other men relate with her.

If he is a toxic father, the daughter could end up expecting that men would be toxic with her and so would adjust her relationship with them accordingly. If for instance, a lady’s father was controlling, she might expect other men to be the same way and so would cede her independence to them in relationships.

A healthy father-daughter relationship however would produce a young lady who is strong and assertive and able to relate well with men as she grows up.

In conclusion

It is a sad thing to see when a father and a daughter have either an unhealthy or inappropriate relationship because a father ought to prepare his daughter for her future relationships.

It is therefore of paramount importance that such inappropriate relationships are worked on as quickly as possible to ensure that any adverse effects are mitigated.

If you notice any signs of sexual abuse, please reach out to the relevant authorities as quickly as possible so that swift action can be taken to protect the daughter.





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