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Body image: how fathers can help their daughters

Body image and self-esteem

Image: Pressemaster/

Parent Info has partnered with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to offer parents advice and information to help children and young people build confidence and feel good about themselves.

In this article, we look at how a daugher’s relationship with her dad or other father figure can affect her body image

‘40% of fathers worry about how their own body image issues impact on their kids’

While today’s fathers tend to be more involved than ever before in their daughters’ upbringing, some dads back off as their daughter grows up – through a mixture of embarrassment as puberty hits, or the belief that ‘mum knows best’ about such things.

But when it comes to encouraging positive body confidence, dads have a key role to play in boosting girls’ confidence and overcoming low self-esteem.

Daughters of fathers who are emotionally distant are more likely to struggle with issues around food and weight, according to clinical psychologist and author Dr Margo Maine in her book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness.

A 2014 survey revealed that 40% of fathers worry about how their own body image issues impact on their kids – and it’s a valid concern.

Girls are subjected to intense pressure to be thin, but fathers can help counteract this message by living a balanced lifestyle that doesn't focus on weight or body shape.

How you can help as a father

  • Be a good role model in what your daughter sees you eat or drink. And if you follow a fitness plan, emphasise how it makes you feel, rather the way it makes you look. 
  • Try to avoid making comments (positive or negative) about other people’s appearance, be it your daughter, another family member or a celebrity. Never underestimate the importance of fathers in daughters’ lives. Your remarks can influence the way she feels about herself.
  • If she asks you how she looks, don’t be afraid to say: ‘You look great!’ but talk about what her brain can do too.
  • Regularly express admiration for female role models in areas such as politics, sport, science or business. And acknowledge the skills and talents of women in your family.
  • If people make comments about your daughter’s appearance, try coming up with a few responses together. As well as helping her feel in control of the situation, it's really helpful for father-daughter bonding too.
  • Try asking your daughter what she believes you think of her. It might not be what you’re expecting or what you wanted to convey. Remember that girls create a perception of themselves based on the comments and actions they experience in all their relationships, particularly at home. How you treat your daughter, as well as how you treat her mother and other women, will shape the way she sees herself and how confident she feels. 

Read, download or print the free Uniquely Me parent guide

This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action. Click on 'Files: Uniquely Me parent guide.pdf' at the foot of the page to download.

Teachers: for free downloadable teaching resources, go to the Dove Self-Esteem Project area on

These pages are brought to you by Parent Zone and the Dove Self-Esteem Project


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: April 2017
Updated: ​May 2018


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