Shared Activities Give Dad/Daughter Relationships Happiness

A new study identified three ‘game changers’ for these relationships

by Lyssa Myska Allen

As long as I can remember, my dad and I have shared activities. I sat on the dock with him too young to remember, we built our scrap-wood fort Scrappy with my brother too, he taught me to shoot a basketball, throw a football, hit a volleyball. Even into adulthood, he’d come with me to play pickup basketball or sub on my volleyball team, wash my car with (sometimes for) me, help me build and paint the fence around my first house. 

“This is the masculine style of building closeness—called ‘closeness in the doing’—whereas the feminine orientation is talking, ‘closeness in the dialogue,'” says Mark T. Morman, Ph.D., a professor of communication in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. Morman and Elizabeth Barrett published a new article in the Journal of Human Communication about the key experiences that changed closesness, for better or worse, in father-daughter relationships.

What they found out is that closeness events were typical of those that help cement masculine friendships. The most frequent turning point reported by fathers and daughters in the study is shared activity—especially sports. Daughters in the study most frequently mentioned sports, working together, and vacationing together.

Many daughters reported being closer to their fathers when they began to play a sport, an intimacy in which the father is the “primary playmate” as daughters learn to compete, take risks, and stand up for themselves. Fathers reported that sports gave them a bond their daughter did not have with her mother or siblings, and that sports opened the lines of communication to talk about other subjects.

Other pivotal events are when the daughter starts dating, marries, or leaves home. “These (turning points) . . . were independent of some type of family history,” Morman says, adding that adoptive and step-father relationships were included. 

Image: me and my dad on vacation

Category: Psych


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