Question: I've heard that when girls hit puberty they tend to turn away from their mothers and turn towards their fathers. Since our divorce, my daughter has been away from her father for 2.5 years now, and she is in the throws of puberty. Is there any validity to this theory?
Susan Epstein responds:
What you are referring to is based on Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of how girls develop their sense of femininity during their early oedipal years. Certainly, there are psychoanalytic researchers who might agree that a girl without a father in her life might develop differently than one with a father.
However, the definitions of 'family' and 'parent' have changed drastically since Freud's writings, and children are being raised more and more by single women, single men, and same sex partners. There is more that we don't know than what we do know about father/daughter relationships and their impact on girls' development.
More important than focusing on "theory" is that you talk to your teen about the differences she is experiencing in her family. How does she feel about not having her father around? Does she miss him? How does she feel around male teachers and other men in her life? Are there other good men that she knows and respects?
What it comes down to is keeping the conversation alive and taking what you learn from your daughter and helping her fill those voids in her life.
Best regards, Susan