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Friday, 02 Oct 2020

What are Daddy Issues (And How Common Are They Women?)

By Dr Becky Spelman
What Exactly are Daddy Issues? | Private Therapy Clinic

The term ‘Daddy Issues’ is a peculiar one within psychology. It’s something that isn’t exactly a clinical definition – at least not according to the DSM-5. But there is a lot of validity that can be given to its use. It’s become something of a catch-all term. And although you can extrapolate some actual meaning from the phrase, all too often it’s used in a way to demean – especially in the case of women. It’s become an overly gendered concept and one that’s sometimes used to side-responsibility within a relationship from the perspective of the male.

How Do You Actually Define Daddy Issues?

It’s hard to given an accurate clinical description of what ‘Daddy Issues’ are as it’s not a recognised disorder. Instead, it’s more of a set of archetypal behaviours and characteristics that contribute to what might better be referred to as a father complex. The phrase ‘Daddy Issues,’ it could be said is a way to “minimise females attachment needs.” And there is a compelling argument. Attachment issues are a very real part of what contribute to dysfunctional relationship styles, which often begin in early childhood as we model our behaviour off of our parents. Children need dependable adults in their lives to feel secure and provide them with the skills to create more of those safe relationships as they mature. If this isn’t present, then it can lead to anxious or avoidant attachment styles – what are commonly referred to as ‘Daddy Issues.’

Are There Different Types of Daddy Issues?

Just as there are many different personality types we encounter – and different parenting styles – there also comes and several attachment styles that are formed as a result. These attachment styles are categorised as being either secure or insecure. Here are the subtypes to be aware of:

  • Anxious-Preoccupied: If you’re rooted in this attachment style, you’ll most likely be anxious, crave closeness and so feel a sense of co-dependency that will make it difficult for you to spend time away from your partner.
  • Dismissive-Avoidant: The style will see you have trouble trusting in others because you fear that they’ll eventually turn on you and cause you pain. This usually stems from experiencing narcissistic parentage growing up.
  • Fearful-Avoidant: You will fall into this bracket if you lack the confidence to express your emotions fully. It will be hard for you to be intimate and will do your best to hide your true feelings.

The 5 Main Situations That Contribute to ‘Daddy Issues’

Here are the five main traumas that contribute to ‘Daddy Issues.’

Not Feeling Loved, Accepted or Respected Growing Up

This form of patterning is what contributes most to the anxious preoccupied style of attachment. But depending on the situation, it can also lead to a fearful-avoidant style, as well. If you’ve experienced this when younger, it may very well mean that you’re someone who’s always in a relationship. There is that constant need to seek the approval that you never had when you were young.

1. Feeling Like You Had to Be Perfect to Earn Love

In this scenario, there was love, but it came with conditions. You may have received affection for being the best at something or being top of the class – doing your father proud. In many instances, this is actually an example of your parent wanting to live vicariously through your achievements. It can also be about them wanting to engage in ego-grandstanding amongst their peers. Your attainment feeds their status. So when you don’t measure up to their expectations, it harms their reputation.

2. When you made mistakes, you were shamed and made to feel unloved

Again, this also feeds into the idea of your actions being intertwined with your father’s status. But in this case, it has more to with the shame you will bring on the family and by proxy his name. In this scenario, there can be a sense of distancing that can contribute to a fearful-avoidant complex later on in life. It can make relationships fraught with tension and insecurity.

3. You Were Never Allowed to Express Anger or Disagree

This scenario, more than any other is the main factor behind the rebellious persona that so many men often attribute to a woman having Daddy Issues. Because of the element of control that’s at play here and the suppression of personality, it can also lead to fearful-avoidant style in addition to feeding into a more combative characteristic.

4. Instilling the Idea that It’s a Man’s Job to Take Care of You

The final trope is that you need to be taken care of and in some way rescued by your eventual lover. You are a damsel in distress that needs the guiding hand of a good strong man. This another situation that can also lead to the anxious-preoccupied style. Admittedly, it is fast becoming a very outdated parent style in the west. But it still remains prevalent within more family-centric cultures around the world.

What Does This Look Like in the Real World?

So how do these issues actually manifest in real-world situations? Here are some of the most common behaviours:

  • Acting Jealous, Clingy and Insecure: We can all feel like we need someone with us sometimes. But when it’s constant, it can become disempowering. If you grew up with an emotionally unavailable parent, you might have found yourself slipping into this mindset.
  • Sticking with Someone Who’s Clearly a Bad Fit: The fear of the abandonment can also stem from a proper form of emotional support and emotional care. And if you struggle with this issue, it can make you more susceptible to accepting abusive relationships.
  • Needing Constant Validation: If validation didn’t come in childhood, then it will be sought elsewhere in later life. We all need some form of validation. However, it can often come at the expense of damaging our relationships by over-extending ourselves.

The Case for Male vs Female Father Complex

To answer the sub-question of the title – how common are Daddy Issues in women, they are of course common. We all have some ‘mental kinks’ associated with our fathers. However, it’s not an exclusively female problem. Men are just as susceptible. Perhaps even more so you might say given the father-son bond. When Daddy Issues are referenced in relation to women specifically, it often used as a way to dehumanise that person’s needs and in some instance to subtly shame them. It’s not overtly sexist. But it’s certainly not helpful for the wider conversation of mental health.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with your family relationships and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.


Psychology Today (26thMar2020)How Your “Daddy Issues” Damage Your Relationships With Men. Retrieved on 21stAugust, 2020 from,

Psych Central (29thDec2017)What Are “Daddy Issues” Exactly?. Retrieved on 21stAugust, 2020 from,

Perspectives of Troy (29thDec2017)Father Complex: The Psychology behind ‘Daddy Issues.’. Retrieved on 21stAugust, 2020 from,

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