According to a new report published in American Psychological Association’s journal Behavioral Neuroscience, dads do have unique relationships with their daughters.
Researchers from Emory University and the University of Arizona used data from 52 fathers of young children (30 dads of girls and 22 dads of boys) in the Atlanta area who agreed to clip a small handheld device onto their belts and wear it for one weekday and one weekend day. The device turned on for 50 seconds every nine minutes a to record sounds during the 48-hour period. The men also underwent MRI brain scans as they viewed photos of unknown adults, unknown children and their own child with neutral, happy and sad facial expressions.
The scans and recordings of the parents’ daily interactions with their kids show that dads used more body-related words like foot and tummy with their girls, which researchers say might be reason to believe why pre-adolescent girls are more likely than boys to report low self-esteem and body image issues. Meanwhile, dads used words like proud, win and best more with their sons.
That said, fathers were more attentive and responsive to their daughters, sang more often to their daughters and spoke more openly about emotions to their daughters. Dads with daughters also had greater responses to daughters’ happy facial expressions.
“The fact that fathers may actually be less attentive to the emotional needs of boys, perhaps despite their best intentions, is important to recognize,” lead researcher Jennifer Mascaro said.
The study focused on fathers because there is less research about fathers’ roles in raising young children than mothers, she added. It also gets to the bottom of things beyond unintentional biases in the treatment of children—it’s proof as to why daddy’s girls are spoiled well into adulthood. They always got the attention.