The Need for Daddy

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

“Show me a girl that dresses like that, and I’ll show you a girl whose father was absent.”

That’s what my friend said. I didn’t believe him when he said it. Sure, he was a 20-year youth ministry veteran, but I thought the statement was dogmatic and shallow. How can he make such a generalization!

I was only a couple years into youth ministry at the time and I hadn’t spent but a few years with teenagers. Years passed, and as my wife and I ministered to a growing number of teenage girls who dressed especially risqué and craved sexual attention, we began to notice a common denominator: the absent dad.

Perhaps my friend was right.

This goes beyond my personal observation. More research is surfacing, even in the last few months, pointing to the vital need for “Daddy’s” presence in his kids’ lives. Presence extends further than just being there physically. Our kids need dads who are actually available for conversation.

The journal Pediatrics released an article on October 15, 2012 titled Paternal Influences on Teen Sexual Behaviors, available for download as a PDF . This review concluded the simple fact, “fathers influence the sexual behavior of their adolescent children.”  The review investigated 13 different studies about the effect that fathers had on the sexual behavior of their kids. The studies suggest communication between fathers and kids is especially influential. Or, in their educated words:

“Paternal attachment was associated with decreased older adolescent sexual behavior, whereas maternal attachment was unrelated, and paternal disapproval of adolescent behavior delayed adolescent sexual debut slightly beyond the effect of maternal disapproval. Specifically, adolescents with increasing paternal or maternal disapproval, independently, were less likely to ever have sex.”

In short, it’s important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about sex… especially dads.

Interestingly enough, these studies all emphasized “conversations,” not rules. The review suggests kids are actually more likely to have sex earlier if they have either extremely strict or extremely lenient parents. Either extreme is bad (not the first time you’ve heard me talk about the overprotective and over-permissive parents’ guidelines). A balanced approach of providing information in frequent conversations is what made the big difference.

In my 20 years of youth ministry and talking with parents after my parenting workshops, I have witnessed the impact a dad can have. Dads make a huge difference when they choose to actually be present in their kids’ lives. The question dads need to ask is, “Do I want to work those extra hours for that Christmas bonus… or do I want to give them a gift that will actually make a lasting difference in their lives: my presence?”

The gift of presence helps your kids in numerous ways. A new study published in the August issue of Child Development proposed that a parents’ time spent with their kids may even raise a teenager’s self esteem and social confidence, especially if it’s time spend with Dad. US News summarizes the study.

Something about the father’s role in the family seemed to boost self-esteem among the teenagers in the study. What most differentiated some families from others was how much the dad was typically around and whether he devoted some of that time to be with his children.

Dads… are you listening?


Question: What do you think? Why do you think these studies are discovering the role of a dad to be so important?Do you think Jonathan’s friend was right about a “promiscuous” girl’s relationship with her dad? Share your thoughts here.


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  • William Martin

    I have been in youth ministry for 20+ years and have seen tons of teen girls that are obsessed with guys that are wrong for them and allow themselves to be sexually involved and most times end up pregnant either by accident or on purpose most of the time trying to hang on to or change the guy they are obsessed with. In every single situation that I have seen the real dad has either been completely absent or a complete jerk in the way he treats his daughter. I make a point to say real dad because I have seen situations where there is a step dad who is a great dad to the daughter but even though that does make somewhat of a difference the girls are still lacking and become obsessed because the real dad is lacking or absent. I have also seen the lack of a dad effect guys in a huge and bad way but I think because the effect on girls is more obvious such as getting pregnant we don’t notice the adverse effect the absence of a dad or a dad that is lacking has on guys as much as we notice it for girls. This in no way minimizes the importance of a mom in kids lives because I think that the absence of a mom or a mom who is lacking has almost as bad of an effect on kids as an absent or lacking dad. PARENTS LISTEN UP AND ESPECIALLY DADS WITH DAUGHTERS. You need to put your own desires aside and step up and the biggest thing your kids need from you is to know for sure without a doubt that you love them and they are valued by you. There may be situations where parents have done things right and their kids have gone down a wrong road but in all my years of working with kids I have not seen even one situation like that. EVERY situation that I have seen where kids have gone down a wrong road it has been the kids reaction to how their parents treated them. So if your kid is starting down a wrong road or is on a wrong road you can bet it is directly related to how you treat them or the fact that you are not there. KIDS LISTEN UP. You can recognize the situation you face with the parents you have or the lack of parent you may have and YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE. Granted most kids make bad choices but you DO NOT HAVE TO NO ONE IS HOLDING A GUN TO YOUR HEAD. God offers the unconditional love you need and that love is perfect and He will never leave you or forsake you and if you will get a handle on that that truth and a relationship with God can help you to MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES even though you want to make the wrong ones in reaction to your circumstances. PARENTS LOOK TO YOURSELF AND KIDS LOOK TO YOURSELF STOP BLAMING SOMEONE ELSE.

    • Jonathan McKee

      It is intriguing how often I have seen this trend. It’s not 100%… by God’s grace I’ve seen some neglected girls break free of the stigma, but it’s definitely a trend. Dads can make a huge difference.

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  • Aaron Helman


    Just found out a few days ago that our next one will be a baby girl, due in April.

    Thanks for the timely post and the reminder.