The Father-Daughter Dance: Insight, Inspiration, and Understanding for Every Woman and Her Father - Barbara Goulter & Joan Minninger

The Father-Daughter Dance is a fairly old book (published in 1993) which I came across at the library. I checked it out because I was curious about what the authors had to say about the father-daughter relationship. They talk about the idea that the relationship between fathers and daughters has a tremendous impact on society—women raised a certain way by their fathers are then prone to repeat unhealthy patterns of behavior with other men; and then these patterns are reflected in how the next generation of kids is raised, and so on. While I thought this view really discounted the impact of relationships with sons, but the idea that father-daughter relationships are important still holds.

The target audience is most likely adult women, particularly those who have not-so-perfect relationships with their fathers (and/or other men); a lot of the writing comes out of psychotherapy sessions Minninger has had treating women. I think it's the sort of book they hope fathers will read but don't really expect until their grown daughters ask them to. That said, I did find it helpful to think about some of the unhealthy patterns outlined in the book and to consider whether I'm moving in that direction with my own (still-quite-young) daughters.

The six unhealthy patterns they describe, one per chapter, are:

  • Lost father, yearning daughter
  • Abusive father, victim daughter
  • Pampering father, spoiled daughter
  • Pygmalion father, companion daughter
  • Ruined father, rescuing daughter
  • Anguished father, angry daughter

The authors draw from literature, movies, actual people (particularly famous women), and other sources to paint pictures of the different behaviors, from how a daughter is treated as a child to their relationships with their fathers and other men as adults. While I didn't see myself totally reflected in any single one of these patterns, I could tell that I'm in more danger of falling into some than others and it was helpful to have a sort of early warning. I came away from the book feeling mostly satisfied with my current relationship with my girls and equipped with some foreknowledge about things to watch for.

After describing these unhealthy patterns, the book also talks about mother-raised children, solo dances (when one party is deceased or otherwise unavailable for reconciliation), some sections about potential solutions including redecision therapy, and finally a few examples of a healthy father-daughter relationship. One particular chapter gave some theories on why opposites attract, and why many people fall into a pattern: break up and then find somebody similar to the person you just left. There is also a section about our tendency to prefer pretense (hiding potential conflicts) over actually resolving conflicts.

Overall I think it's a well-written book but it is a little heavy on anecdotal rather than based on scientific evidence, so that made the book a little less effective for me personally. Also, I think that my situation as a stay-at-home dad is not something that was widespread enough when the book was written that it's really addressed in much detail. I think it could certainly be a helpful book, particularly for grown women who have difficult relationships with their fathers, but unless there is an updated version I'm not sure it's something that I'd suggest for everyone now.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 01, 2010 | Comments (0)


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