While many theorists believe that a girl’s relationship with her mother is more relevant to the development of sexual orientation than her relationship with her father, the latter has also been considered a contributing factor. These theorists hold that a girl is most likely to develop a heterosexual orientation when she believes her father loves her, is pleased that she is a girl, and is affectionate toward her in a way that is not seductive.
To elaborate this view more fully, a warm relationship between a girl and her father is thought to enhance the daughter’s self-esteem and, at the same time, to provide her with a positive attitude toward males in general. A father’s delight in having a daughter is thought to encourage the daughter to accept her female status and thus to solidify her gender identity; one result, according to this line of reasoning, is that she seeks complementary relationships with persons of the opposite sex. The absence of such a relationship with one’s father has been thought to encourage the development of homosexuality in females. Instead of having a warm and loving relationship with her father, it has been suggested, the prehomosexual girl is more likely to feel rejected by him and thus to anticipate a similar rejection from other males.
Several studies have described the fathers of homosexual females as emotionally withdrawn from their daughters and from other members of the household. Other investigators have found that homosexual women were more likely than heterosexual women to have had antagonistic relationships with their fathers during childhood and adolescence or to have had fathers who were sadistic toward them. One study found that homosexual females felt accepted by their fathers only when they acted like sons. In still other studies, homosexual females were more likely than heterosexual females to report feelings of fear or hostility toward their fathers. Another study associated a hostile and exploitative father with female homosexuality.
Finally, a father who is physically affectionate with his daughter during childhood, and who does not stop being so when she reaches puberty, is thought to encourage her to accept her sexuality as an integral part of herself. According to psychoanalytic theory, as long as her father is not especially seductive, the girl will eventually repress her sexual desire for him and transfer her erotic interests to other males. It has been thought that a girl in a “seductive” father-daughter relationship may shun heterosexual contacts because they imply an emotional abandonment of her father or, on the other hand, because they seem too “incestuous.” In this regard, in a study in which psychiatrists were asked to describe the fathers of their homosexual female patients, they portrayed the fathers as having been overly possessive of their daughters and sexually interested in them. In this way, it was concluded, the fathers inhibited normal heterosexual development in their daughters. They were also described as having discouraged their daughters from “growing up”; these researchers suggested that the daughters thus tended to withdraw from relationships with other males in order to remain “Daddy’s little girl.”