Why Are Fathers Overprotective of Their Daughters?

Fathers want to protect their daughters from harm. They try to take control to prevent their daughters from making mistakes and getting hurt. However, being overprotective may do more harm than good. It conveys a lack of trust and she may rebel when given a chance as she gets older.

A father is typically a daughter’s first introduction to males. He is her first hero, role model, and usually her primary measuring stick for all other men involved in her life. Of course, we can’t downplay a father’s role in his daughter’s life, but is it normal for a father to be so overprotective of his daughter?

The stereotypical overprotective father is more often celebrated than not. There are more posts on social media about overprotective fathers “doing what they gotta do” to protect their daughters than posts about what adverse effects overprotective fathers may later have on their daughters. Today we will be focusing on the latter.

father and daughter holding hands at sunset

So, Why Are Fathers Overprotective?

Overprotective fathers are frequently viewed as charming and admirable. They are plotted into comical movie scripts to portray a father’s love and care for his daughter and how he’ll go to great lengths to ensure her safety. But there is more to it than wanting to ensure her safety. 

I certainly understand the desire a father has to protect his daughter from harm. I find myself very protective towards my infant daughter and she is not even yet old enough to walk! That being said, I also understand a daughter’s point of view and all the downsides paired with an overprotective father. However, the desire to protect a daughter needs to be carefully weighed against the desire to raise a strong young woman.

The overprotective father plot points confuse many of us with the intensity of parental love. Moreover, it brings about a confusion of whether a father’s love for his daughter should include controlling her and/or her body. The short answer is; NO.

Are overprotective fathers really the best way to raise the next generation of strong, confident women? I don’t think so.

What Happens When Fathers are too Overprotective? 

It Conveys a Lack of Trust

Overprotective fathers essentially send a message that they do not trust their daughters or their daughter’s own judgement with regards to her decisions. Therefore, they prevent their daughter from taking risks and even from making choices.

Risks and choices are important to allow her to develop character and a sense of self. By being controlling and overprotective, fathers demonstrate a lack of trust in their daughters to make their own decisions regarding friendship groups, relationships, trying new things, or going on adventures. 

Overprotective Fathers Deprive Their Daughter of Life Experiences

Overprotective fathers want to help and protect their daughters by doing all of the “dirty work” for them. But, instead of helping, it deprives her of necessary life experiences, which only causes her to grow up lacking essential qualities and skills to face the real world.

The thought of your child getting hurt is a scary thought for any parent. I know it is for me and I would do anything to prevent my daughter from harm. Protecting your daughter from harm is natural and even regarded as healthy parenting (but only to a certain extent). 

However, children (and later teenagers and young adults) should be encouraged to take risks. It is healthy to take risks and learn from making mistakes. Understanding and wisdom come from direct experiences. The more fathers encourage taking safe and calculated risks while ensuring support and safety; the more confident their daughters will be.

Overprotective fathers tend to go into overdrive when trying to protect their daughters. Overprotective fathers might have the right intention to keep their daughters safe from harm and to avoid having them experience the pain of making mistakes. What they forget is that life’s greatest lessons are learned from making mistakes; it’s all part of growing up. 

The more fathers deprive their daughters of taking risks and learning from their mistakes, the more naïve and unprepared their daughters will be as they go out into the world, which can lead to even more dangerous risks and situations as an adult.

She is More Likely to Rebel

Being too overprotective generally has the opposite effect than desired. For example, if a father is too controlling and overprotective, his daughter will likely rebel when she gets a chance. 

Although absent fathers are said to increase the risk of daughters participating in unsafe sex, overprotective ones, oddly enough, tend to have the same effect. A father’s effort to keep their daughter away from men often has the opposite effect. It can lead to daughters wanting to participate in sex at an earlier age than they would have if their father instead had an open conversation on healthy relationships and how a guy (or girl) should treat them. 

Overprotective Fathers Set Unbalanced Examples for Their Daughters

While we note how a man should treat a woman, an overprotective father unconsciously conveys a message to his daughter, stating that she is incapable of taking care of and protecting herself. From an early age, she is taught that she’ll need a man to guide her and set boundaries to keep her safe.

An overprotective father forgets that most girls depend on their fathers to set an example of healthy masculinity. They are the image that their daughter admires and looks up to from an early age.

Being overprotective sets an unbalanced example of what a man should be like. His protecting or restraining qualities are ones that a daughter remembers most. 

Exchange Overprotectiveness for Support and Trust

The intensity of over controlling parenting ultimately denies women autonomy. Fathers telling their daughters what they may or may not do with their bodies, and worse, that these decisions define their worth is not loving; it is controlling at best and damaging at worst. 

Similar to the association between a woman’s self-worth and sexual decisions, these gender roles also have a long-lasting psychological impact on women. Having stereotypes drilled into our heads by overprotective fathers interfere with a woman’s ability to form healthy relationships. She is left to fear and battle indoctrinated thoughts such as “guys only want one thing from a girl” well into adulthood. This, all because her father wanted to “protect his little girl”.

What if, instead of instilling fear into their daughter’s minds and instead of policing her body, overprotective fathers chose a different approach? What if he instead decided to trust, equip, and empower her with the needed knowledge, advice, and skills to make her own sexual decisions?

Teach her that sexual assault is very real and teach her how to protect herself against it, as much as possible. Teach her about poor sexual decisions and their consequences. But more importantly, teach her that sexuality is normal and even positive under the right circumstances. She is not your symbol of innocence; she deserves to learn how to manage her own romantic relationships.

“Locking your daughter up” does not prepare her to handle the very freedom to which she is entitled. Instead, it teaches her that she is incapable of handling freedom and the choices she will need to make to live an independent life.

When overprotective fathers tell their daughters the common, so-called joke that “they aren’t allowed to date, ever,” it denies them a fundamental human experience. It might even cause them to experience guilt when they choose to pursue a relationship.

Daughters deserve better! Teach them that what matters is feeling safe and respected, not how long they waited or how many partners they had.

In Conclusion

Overprotective fathers may have the right intent in wanting to keep their little girl safe, but the intensity comes across as a lack of trust and the outdated belief that his daughter cannot live independently from a man.

Instead, fathers should set examples of masculinity that include trust. They should give their daughters the needed support to take risks and to learn from their mistakes. Teach her to be independent and strong, not scared and reliant.