Sports, shared activities 'game changers' for father-daughter relationships

Father daughter relationship

The most frequent turning point in father-daughter relationships is shared activity especially sports, according to a study by Baylor University researchers.

"This is the masculine style of building closeness called 'closeness in the doing' - whereas the feminine orientation is talking, 'closeness in the dialogue"," said Mark T. Morman, Ph.D., a professor of communication in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences.

When asked what key experiences changed closeness in their relationships, fathers and daughters who were study participants mentioned events typical of those that help cement masculine friendships.

Morman noted that the study is qualitative - based on written responses by participants rather than by a statistical analysis. But it reveals meaningful markers of when relationships changed, regardless of whether they became closer or more distant, he said.

The 43 fathers and 43 daughters in the study were not related to one another but were asked to pinpoint in writing a crucial moment of change in their own father-daughter relationships. Daughters in the study were required to be at least age 22, while fathers ranged from 45 to 70. Adoptive and step-family relationships were among those included.

"These (turning points) . . . were independent of some type of family history," Morman said.

Most frequently mentioned of 14 relationship changes by daughters were engaging activities with their fathers, their marriages and physical distance from their fathers. Fathers most frequently mentioned joint activities, a daughter's marriage and the beginning of a daughter's dating.

Other pivotal times noted by both fathers and/or daughters in the study were adolescence, a family crisis, parents' divorce, a daughter's financial independence, giving birth, entering elementary school, high school graduation, a daughter's developing outside friendships, a daughter's maturation/beginning a friendship with her father and poor decisions on a daughter's part.

The study has been published in the Journal of Human Communication.

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