A father is the first man in the life of a little girl, and his role is vital. He represents the masculine, the facinating ‘other’, and his daughter will compare every man who plays a part in her life to him.
If you (the father) and your daughter have a close relationship, she will probably choose men who are similar to you, although some women choose men who are in radical contrast to their fathers. For example, a woman who has had a difficult relationship with her father may look for a man who is very different in temperament and personality. And some women find themselves repeating patterns of experience and behavior from childhood in their adult relationships.
As with mother-daughter relationships, if the issues in a strained father-daughter relationship are not worked through and resolved, those issues will be passed from generation to generation …
The ‘positive father complex’ … occurs when a girl admires, respects, loves and trusts her father. And, in turn, her father is consistently proud, supportive, understanding and encouraging of his daughter. It is important to remember that detachment of children from their parents occurs during puberty, and that it is an essential process for the transformation to healthy, independent adulthood. If detachment doesn’t happen, a daughter risks spending her life in the shadow of her parents and will not develop her own identity. If her attachment to and identity with her father are particularly strong, her adult self-esteem may greatly depend on the extent to which she can win the admiration of men. You can easily picture the drama that occurs when such a girl loses her father, or such a woman loses her husband.
The woman who did not experience consistent parental love from both her parents in childhood, on the other hand, will suffer where her self-esteem is concerned. The kind of woman who feels unworthy of love will spend her life unconsciously offering herself as a victim because she believes that she doesn’t ‘deserve’ any better. (pp. 169–70)