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“Not every successful man is a good father. But every good father is a successful man”

Robert Duvall

After our relationship with our mother, the relationship we have with our fathers can be the most impactful one we will experience. It influences every area of our lives.

In her article, Types of Damaging Fathers and How They Influence Who We Are, Elisabetta Franzoso recalls that the recognition that fathers play an important role is a recent development. The focus for many years has mainly been on mothers and how they affect their children’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

She goes on to say that the parental role of a father was omitted from this equation for a long time because his responsibility was not to nurture but to earn, or going way back, hunt.

Fathers could be aloof or supportive, harsh in judgment or fair, affectionate or uncommunicative. Regardless, little thought or attention was given to the effect these differences would have on us children.

Most women come to therapy as adults because they are struggling with their relationships. What I've come to learn is if we want to start building a new way of relating to our partners and other loved ones, it is essential that they build strong emotional foundations by looking at the dynamic of their relationship with their father.

Some of these women are unaware that their ability to sustain satisfying or committed relationships, find gratification in their work life, be effective parents, speak up and assert themselves, is largely dependent on the relationship they had and have with their fathers.

This is especially the case when it comes to women, and this absence will show up in many ways.

The biggest problems women with unhealthy father-daughter relationships will experience are usually the inability to commit, fear of abandonment, lack of communication, poor emotional intelligence, and/or understanding of themselves and their partners.

In the next issue we look at how to heal the father-daughter relationship, but before then, let's explore 13 of the most common unhealthy father dynamics.


  1. The Absent Dad - who walks out on their families or dies prematurely

  2. The Divorced Dad - who disengages after divorcing not only the mother but also the children

  3. The Addicted Dad - who is alienated from his family through addiction/who’s a functioning alcoholic/addict and therefore emotionally unavailable

  4. The Distant Dad - who is emotionally distant even though he can be physically present

  5. The Critical Dad - who is highly critical and has high standards that are often impossible to meet

  6. The Rejecting/Neglecting Dad - who openly repudiates his children

  7. The Unfaithful Dad - who’s unfaithful to his partner and therefore family

  8. The Doting Dad - who devotes his life and love for his children but not his wife

  9. The Seductive Dad - who is unable to maintain a loving balance between their paternal distance and their daughter’s need for attention and affection

  10. The Abandoner Dad - who disappears and make little if little effort to make contact

  11. The Deceased Dad - who dies very early leaving a legacy of unfulfilled promises and an inherent fear in daughters that all men will leave them

  12. The Taken Dad - who is separated from his children because of career requirements, hospitalisation, and/or imprisonment

  13. The Narcissistic Dad - who gets what he wants even at the risk of damaging his family and its members, which it usually does. Arrogant, self-assured, and self-centered. Lack of empathy or sense of morality

Your father may fit into more than one of the above. In my own case, my father was absent, divorced my mother, moved back to Nigeria after their divorce so he was also distant. I have painful memories of the impact of his unfaithfulness, he was also an abandoner and has now passed away. My relationship with my father was so estranged that I do not have a single photograph with him, hence the use of the image above.

Each of these types of fathers leaves a unique imprint on your emotions, way of thinking, and innate beliefs that often go on to affect you in adult life.

As a reaction to the anxieties we develop, we often set up obstacles in our lives by unconsciously sabotaging ourselves and the goals we most desire.

The importance of fathers as emotional, intellectual, and spiritual nurturers has been largely neglected for too long. I feel strongly that if this was not the case, we’d be at the stage of overcoming global issues surrounding gender inequality, such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.

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