Dad plays role in teen girls’ behavior

Dad plays role in teen girls behavior

Dad plays role in teen girls’ behavior

St Petersburg Times

By Ernest Hooper, Metro Columnist
In print: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I don’t want to talk to my daughter about sex. Ever.

I just want to sit on the porch with a shotgun and chase the boys away.

But it’s not that simple for fathers, says Patrick Wanis, a Miami human behavior expert who has a doctorate in health psychology, human behavior and hypnosis.

In 2006, teen pregnancies rose for the first time in 15 years, and Wanis states in bold terms that the increase can be blamed on absent fathers and fathers who fail to play an active role in bringing up their daughters.

Studies from researchers at the University of Arizona, University of Texas-Austin and Wake Forest University all indicate girls who have positive relationships with their fathers wait longer to have their first sexual encounter.

With an estimated 60 percent of U.S. girls spending at least part of their childhood without a father in the home, the need for dads is increasing. And divorce shouldn’t interfere with their role.

Wanis said fathers can help form daughters’ self-image, self-esteem and self-confidence, and teach them discipline, morals and values.

“Dads need to spend more time with their daughters, ask more questions, express sincere interest, listen attentively and openly express love and affection,” Wanis said.

As the father of a 6-year-old girl, I’m a few years away from this stage. But wow, I can’t believe I have to do all that. What about mom?

Wanis isn’t diminishing a mother’s role, but said contrary to popular belief, mom shouldn’t simply take over when the daughter becomes a teen.

Wanis and other experts argue fathers should be completely involved, including in one-on-one activities.

In fact, he says it’s imperative for fathers to have that potentially difficult conversation about what teenage boys really want from them in terms of sex. “They can explain it in a way that mom can’t, to let daughter know that for boys teen sex is about conquest, fun and adventure; while for girls, teen sex is about expressing love and affection,” Wanis said.

Wanis suggests that dads tell their daughters they were girl-crazed bums just like the knuckleheads coming around today. I thought I would tell her I always sought out inner-beauty and sparkling personalities, and limited my interaction to holding hands.

“You have to tell her you made mistakes and you learned from those mistakes,” Wanis said. “Don’t pretend you’re perfect, because they’re going to find out you’re not.”

Serious consequences exist for fathers who don’t engage their daughters.

Not only are teen girls more apt to become pregnant, but they are more likely to date older men, use drugs and engage in risky behaviors that result in sexually transmitted diseases.

Poor father-daughter relationships also can result in adult women entering into negative relationships.

The problems are more pronounced in the African-American community, where father absence is higher.

Wanis said single mothers should try to find a father figure, but cautioned that they should choose carefully.

All of this is a lot to digest. My current role is showing up for cheerleading practice and playing the Camp Rock CD.

But I guess if my daughter is going to end up with a good man, I have to be a good man for her right now.

That’s all I’m saying.

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