Constraining Constructions: Low-Income Fathers’ Perceptions of Fathering their Adolescent Daughters

Elmien Lesch*, Adiela Ismail
Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, PBX1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa.

© 2014 Lesch and Ismail;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, PBX1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa; E-mail:


Fathers have the potential to play an important role in the development of their daughters. Paternal involvement has been shown to significantly affect the emotional well-being of daughters during their adolescent and young adult years. However, internationally and nationally, research is limited in terms of the number of studies on the relationship between fathers and adolescent daughters. It is also mostly based on daughter’s reports and often does not include father’s perspectives. We interviewed low-income fathers who lived in a Cape Winelands community in South Africa about being fathers to daughters. A social constructionist approach to fatherhood informed this explorative and community-specific study. We used a qualitative design with semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. Similar to other fatherhood studies, our participants’ constructions of fatherhood revolved around the roles of disciplinarian, provider, protector and head of the household. Traditional roles emerged not only for the fathers but also in their constructions of their wives and daughters. Father-daughter relationships are important gender construction sites that influence daughters’ future interactions and relationships with men and it is crucial that the reproduction of such traditional gender roles in homes should be addressed to empower women. Our findings also suggest that fathers tend to minimize physical demonstrations of affection towards their daughters and may need guidelines for appropriate interactions in this regard.

Keywords: Fathers’ perspectives, father-daughter relationships, gender constructions low-income, social constructionist, South Africa.