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What Exactly Are ‘Daddy Issues’? 12 Things to Consider

The term “daddy issues” gets tossed around a lot, but most of the people doing the tossing are getting it all wrong.

It’s become a catchall term to describe almost anything a woman does when it comes to sex and relationships.

If she puts out “too soon,” doesn’t want to put out, or is looking for reassurance, she’s got daddy issues.

If she prefers older men, likes to get spanked and called a bad girl, or calls her partner “daddy” in bed, must be daddy issues.

To set things straight and get you in the know about this almost always misused, misunderstood, and overly gendered concept, we reached out to Amy Rollo, triple licensed psychotherapist and owner of Heights Family Counseling in Houston, Texas.

It’s hard to say, seeing as how “daddy issues” isn’t an official medical term or recognized disorder in the recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

This could explain why many experts have an issue with the term, including Rollo.

“For the record, I don’t believe in the term ‘daddy issues,’” Rollo says. “Many see this phrase as a way to minimize females’ attachment needs.”

Children need a dependable adult in their lives to form secure attachments, Rollo explains.

“If this isn’t formed, many people can form avoidant or anxious attachment styles. If a child doesn’t have a father figure in their life consistently, this could lead to an insecure attachment style later in adulthood.”

She adds that, for many people, these attachment styles ultimately present as what some refer to as “daddy issues.”

We can’t say for sure, but the consensus seems to be that it dates back to Freud and his father complex.

This is a term he coined to describe a person who has unconscious impulses and associations as a result of a poor relationship with their father.

From that theory came the Oedipus complex, the theory that children have a subconscious attraction to their opposite sex parent.

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Oedipus complex refers specifically to boys. Electra complex is used to describe the same theory as applied to girls and their fathers.

Yep! No two people’s experience with their parents is exactly the same. The attachment patterns formed during childhood can affect your attachment styles in your adult relationships.

Attachment styles are categorized as being either secure or insecure, with several subtypes of insecure attachment styles, including:

  • Anxious-preoccupied. People with this attachment type may be anxious, crave closeness, but feel insecure about their partner leaving them.
  • Dismissive-avoidant. People with this type may have trouble trusting others for fear that they’ll be hurt.
  • Fearful-avoidant. People with this type may feel unsure about intimacy and tend to run away from experiencing difficult feelings.

Secure attachment styles result from having a caregiver who was responsive to your needs and emotionally available.

Insecure attachment styles, on the other hand, result from having a caregiver who was unresponsive to your needs and emotionally unavailable.

Secure attachment styles typically develop if your childhood needs were readily met by your caregiver.

As you can probably guess, people who have a loving and secure relationship with their caregivers are likely to grow into confident and self-assured adults.

These are the folks who likely have their life together in various aspects, including their close relationships.

Their relationships tend to be long lasting and built on real trust and intimacy.

Then there are the insecure attachment styles.

As Rollo already pointed out, some insecure attachment styles could look like “daddy issues.”

She explains that they often appear as:

  • being anxious when you aren’t with your partner
  • needing lots of reassurance that the relationship is OK
  • seeing any negativity as a sign that the relationship is doomed

It isn’t just about romantic relationships, either. Your relationship with your caregivers and your attachment style also affect other close relationships, including your friendships.

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Find out more about attachment styles and their subtypes here.

Everyone. Daddy issues aren’t just a female thing.

It doesn’t matter what sex and gender you were assigned at birth or how you identify; your relationship with your caregivers will always have some influence on the way you approach and deal with your adult relationships.

The way a person’s issues present might not look exactly the same, and so-called daddy issues could actually be mommy, grandma, or grandad issues.

Or something else entirely! No one is immune.

Who knows? It’s a bit of a head-scratcher given that Freud’s theories first focused on the relationship between father and son.

What we do know is that making females the “poster gender” for daddy issues is inaccurate and potentially harmful, according to Rollo.

“When we talk about daddy issues, it’s typically a way to dehumanize a woman’s needs or desires. Some people even use the term to slut-shame,” she says.

For example, if a woman desires sexual intimacy with men, it must be because she has daddy issues. In other words, something must be wrong with her for her to desire sex.

“Daddy issues could also mean that a woman desires a strong attachment with a man,” Rollo says, adding that in these cases, “using the term is minimizing a woman’s basic needs in a relationship.”

Again, Rollo emphasizes that anyone can have attachment wounds from not having strong relationships…

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