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daddy issues in men

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“Daddy issues.” It’s a phrase that can make the blood boil of many women. At some point, many of us have had someone accuse us of having them. The term has become weaponized, which is unfortunate because there is a lot of value in recognizing that A) our parents absolutely play major roles in our emotional development and B) understanding how exactly that is. It often feels like when someone accuses someone of having “Daddy Issues” they aren’t leaving room for the person to explore said issues, grow, and improve. Instead, it sounds like a permanent conviction. So let’s first and foremost remove that stigma, because every person in the world has both daddy and mommy issues. Our parents determine our emotional wellbeing, tremendously – that even goes for the parents that weren’t in our lives. That will also deeply impact a person.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, it’s important to know that it’s been well-documented that how involved (or not) a child’s father is will be a major predictor of many elements of that man’s emotional development and wellbeing. In particular, having had an absent father has been shown to lead to many issues. Keep in mind that to be “absent” can come in many forms. While there is, yes, a rise in unmarried births, there are also children born into married couples, who later divorce. So that can be a father who later becomes absent. There are dads who are there every day physically but absent emotionally. There are a lot of single dads, doing it on their own, who probably can’t be fully present, even if they’d like to be. All of these scenarios and others can lead to what we know as “Daddy Issues,” and they show up in men, too. They can look like this.

Portrait of bearded man

Source: Westend61 / Getty

Struggling to be playful

The research on the father-son dynamic shows that, while mothers tend to focus more on nurturing their children by feeding, coddling, clothing, etc., fathers are the ones who often play with children, and more specifically, play a lot with their sons. They’re the ones who encourage sons to be playful and get into a little (controlled) mischief. Without that element, a boy can grow up to be a man who is very stern, struggles to let loose, takes himself too seriously, and in general, is uncomfortable being silly. You know those men who seem too grownup – like they were born 40 years old with a robust Roth IRA? They could very well fall under this category.

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