Ohio State University Study Finds Strong Relationships With Fathers Helps Daughters Overcome Loneliness

In a new study, researchers from Ohio State University have found that fathers play a key role in their young daughters overcoming loneliness. The team analyzed 695 families by having mothers and fathers rate their relationships with their child when the child was in first, third, fourth, and fifth grade and having the children rate their levels of loneliness in first, third, and fifth grade.

Generally, the results showed that closeness levels decreased overtime. Lead author, Julia Yan, believes that this is due to children becoming more independent as they grow older. Additionally, loneliness levels decreased as well, most likely due to children enhancing their social skills and developing relationships with their peers. However, the rate at which loneliness declined was much faster for young girls who had strong relationships with their fathers.

Mothers’ relationships did not have an effect in this study because mothers tended to have consistently good relationships with their children, leaving less difference to measure. Additionally, parent-child closeness did not have an effect on young boys’ loneliness, possibly due to the social norm of not raising boys to have close emotional relationships.

Xin Feng, co-author and associate professor of human sciences, believes that because mothers are often the ones that take care of children on a day-to-day basis, “fathers have more freedom to interact with children in different ways, to challenge them and have a wider range of emotional contact. That may be one reason why fathers had more impact on their daughters.” Dr. Feng holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Hangzhou University in China and a master’s and Ph.D. in human development and family studies from the University of Connecticut.

Julia Yan is currently a doctoral candidate in human development and family science at Ohio State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Beijing Normal University in China, and two master’s degrees from Ohio State University, one in human development and family science, and the other in statistics.

The full study, “Longitudinal Associations Between Parent-Child Relationships in Middle Childhood and Child-Perceived Loneliness,” was published in the Journal of Family Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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