10 Keys to Raising a Girl Without a Father in Her Life

The challenges of fatherless daughters have been gaining some attention on the part of social scientists and parenting experts in recent years. Researchers have been studying and documenting how the experiences of fatherless daughters may differ from girls who grow up with a dad in their lives. Consider some of the impacts on a girl’s life that come from the lack of a father as they are growing up.

  • Earlier sexual activity and teen pregnancy
  • Emotional challenges in intimate relationships
  • High levels of anger-related depression
  • Lack of a male role model
  • Lower levels of well-being
  • Lower sense of security
  • More likely to marry in their teenage years
  • Much more likely to be divorced at some point in her life
  • Much more likely to have a baby outside of marriage
  • Struggles with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness

Whether ​a father is not in the picture due to death, divorce, abandonment, or incarceration will impact the challenges your child may face. A mom or grandparent often ends up trying to fill the gap in a girl’s life, with varying levels of success. That said, being a fatherless daughter doesn't necessarily mean your child will suffer the above consequences.

If you are a parent of a fatherless girl, there are some important ways you can use to help her cope with not having a father and avoid some of the possible negative outcomes that can occur in her life.

1

Find a Consistent Father Figure

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Girls benefit from having a positive and long-term father figure in their lives, and when that doesn’t happen with their biological father, it may need to happen with another good man. 

Sometimes a grandfather is a good option, or it may be an uncle. Be certain that the male role model you select is exemplary, loves your daughter, and sets the right kind of example for her and for you.

2

Recognize Her Coping Methods

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Your daughter may have already developed some good coping mechanisms for dealing with the lack of a father in her life. You should reward and recognize positive coping mechanisms like talking openly with you, being aware of how men treat her and other girls and staying connected with a good network of friends and family members.

If you see some warning signs that she may be getting involved in unhealthy relationships, letting herself become inappropriately sexualized at a young age, or may be depressed or discouraged, help her use her strong coping mechanisms and character traits to avoid further problems.

3

Find Positive Male Role Models

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Besides family members, help your daughter find some good role models in other parts of her life. These men may be the fathers of her friends, an athletic team coach, a teacher, or a member of your clergy.

When she sees first hand how good men behave and how they interact with other people, she can begin to determine the character traits that define good men.

Consider the type of male role model the men you introduce to them to will be. Avoid extended exposure to men that might be dangerous or simply poor male role models. Ultimately, aim for the men that have interaction with your daughter to be supportive and positive.

4

Find the Right 'Village'

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Remember the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” The single parent of a fatherless girl should try to surround themself and their family with a nurturing and supportive group of friends, family members, and others. If some of your friends (male or female) don't set a good example for your daughter, you may want to rethink how much time they spend with your daughter.

Connecting with friends that have a positive, fully engaged man as their child’s father can help your daughter by giving them a window into what positive father-daughter relationships can look like—and may provide another positive male relationship in her life.

5

Require Respectful Behavior

Adult daughter and mother conversing at window

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Sometimes, single moms may let respect take a back seat to being “friends” with their children. However, it's important to maintain authority and teach your daughter to be respectful.

By demonstrating and demanding respect in your parenting, you can instill these values in your daughter.

6

Know Her Friends

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As girls grow, they tend to be more heavily influenced by their friends than their parents. There is a world of difference between having friends that build a girl’s self-esteem and have positive male role models in their own lives and having friends that don’t bring those traits to the table.

Good friends can also set reasonable and healthy boundaries, which can help any girl in the group learn that it is not just OK but essential to have those kinds of boundaries with the people in her life.

7

Help Improve Her Self-Esteem

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One of the key potential areas of concern for a fatherless girl relates to her self-esteem. She needs a strong sense of self-worth to thrive in her world, and lacking that self-esteem may lead her to seek validation in all the wrong places.

Not having a dad in her life may be more likely to lower her self-esteem but that's not a foregone conclusion—and there are many factors that influence self-esteem. Emphasize that the absence of her dad in her life is not her fault or due to anything she did.

Get her into activities that tend to build self-worth.

Things like sports, school clubs, church groups, music, and dance can be great sources of self-esteem for a girl.

8

Praise Her Character More

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Many girls struggle with self-worth as it relates to their appearance. Fatherless girls may be more likely to have these challenges. Be sure to praise all her strengths and keep the focus off of valuing people only based on physical traits or appearance.

By focusing on her good character traits and activities, parents can help her see that she is so much more than her appearance.

Put her in situations where she can excel and where she can develop some of those positive characteristics that will help her have a good self-image without inappropriately focusing on her appearance.

9

Listen to Them When They Vent

Concerned mother talking with her daughter on a park bench

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Sometimes, fatherless girls struggle with issues and may find themselves angry, hurt or confused because of the lack of a father. 

Listen actively when they share their feelings and thoughts. Aim for them to you as a safe, nonjudgmental source of love and wisdom.

Resist talking negatively about their lack of a father, and help them see that healthy communication can help them find their way through the sense of loss or other ramifications of not having a dad in her life.

10

Find Your Own Support Network

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Finally, a mom of a fatherless daughter needs to be strong herself and exhibit the things that she hopes her daughter will model.

Connect yourself with other moms who are raising daughters alone in a positive way.

Take some classes, participate in women’s groups in your community or your church, and read some good books about parenting. Talk to friends whose parenting wisdom you trust. As you strengthen your own parenting skills, you can be a better parent for your children.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McLanahan S, Tach L, Schneider D. The causal effects of father absenceAnnu Rev Sociol. 2013;39:399-427. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145704

Additional Reading
  • Jackson, L. M. (2010). Where's my daddy? Effects of fatherlessness on women's relational communication. (Master's Thesis, San Jose State University). SJSU Scholarworks.