The Impact of Dads on their Daughters' Body Image

dads and daughters

Dads impact on Daughters Body Image

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Do dads have an impact on girls’ body image development? You betcha!

I just finished a great interview with Joe Kelly aka “The Dad Man” in preparation for writing the chapter on Dads for my body image book.

Number 1 question on my list: How important are Dads when it comes to girls’ body image development?  After all, moms and daughters have been studied, analyzed, discussed, and discussed again—but issues of Dad’s and daughters have taken a back seat.

The impact of Dads (and step dads) on their daughters is profound.  As the first man in their lives, Dads set the precedent of how daughters believe men see them.  What do they value?  Are looks a major issue?  Do they see their daughters as a full “human” with thoughts, feelings, interests, and principles—or simply as a girl who should look and act a certain way?

Studies tell us that what parents say– yes, that includes Dads too– have a powerful influence on how girls see themselves, their dieting habits, and their overall views about body shape and size. Fathers, who tend to tease their children more than Moms, have been reported to have a very harsh impact on their daughters and their self image. In fact, girls whose dads made fun of them are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies,  to exhibit eating disordered  behavior, to have low self-esteem, and suffer from depression. Of course, Dads can also have a positive impact on girls and how they view themselves– so what can you do, Dads?

Mr. Kelly underscores that Dads need to see their daughters as individuals not just as girls.  Every girl is different—every child is different—what is their daughter all about? Certainly weight shouldn’t be the first thing (if at all) that comes to mind! In fact, weight should be irrelevant considering looks change constantly and should not have a bearing on who your daughter is as a person.  Weight is a cultural issue now—it shouldn’t be YOUR issue.

So how can Dads have a positive affect on their daughters’ body image development?

Mr. Kelly’s advises Dads to stop buying into all the cultural crud and see their daughters as multifaceted people. Show her that the media , the “product” world, the celebrity world and the advertising world fosters a bunch of lies and the measure of a woman is based on who she is, who she helps, how she feels, how she uses her mind—not on how she looks, how much she weighs, and what size she wears.

He also wants Dads to remember that for every advertisement out there– imagine your daughter’s face on the model or actresses body.  Would you really want that to be YOUR daughter? Do you really want her receiving THESE messages? For example (thank you for this ugly gem,  Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth, of which I am an advisory board member)


I know…yuck.

Remember, Dads, your daughter is looking to you to understand how she is viewed by 49% of the world.  What do you want her to see when she looks in the mirror? What do you want her to think when she is around boys—and later, men?  Talk to her about it.  Show her how you feel.

And for those of you who are telling your daughters that they are “too fat” or some other form of appearance criticism, please know that you are overtly contributing to the body image problems your daughter has now and your daughter will have in the future.  But to those Dads who are remaining silent, don’t think you are in the right.  By saying nothing at all, you are covertly contributing to the problem.  Yes, by saying nothing at all, you are letting the world speak for you.

Take a stance—then take a stand. Be the father she needs and deserves.

**Have a story about how your Dad or step Dad influenced your body image (negative or positive)? Please send me your story for the book (to be published in 2010 by Harlequin Books)!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Are all girls really created equal and are thin girls just superior beings?


I’ve been thinking about this question as I’ve been writing my book on girls and body image.  I know it’s an ugly question– showing an ugly side of human nature. But the more girls who write to me about how they view themselves and others in their schools, the more I wonder if this question underlines and undermines how girls see themselves and others at school.

Does thinness make some girls automatically superior in school? Does any deviation from that thinness put girls at risk for being seen as inferior? Does this way of thinking carry on as we become adults?

Studies repeatedly show that girls who are seen as overweight, fat, bigger than average, or even just bigger than the “thin” girls must deal with discrimination, teasing, ostracization, and relational bullying.  They must deal with weight discrimination from peers and from teachers.

My belief is that the more girls are around other girls and teachers who have anti-fat beliefs, the stronger those beliefs become.  They become part of the “thin” group and reject anything or anyone that associates them with any “fat” group.  That means rejecting other girls but it also mean rejecting parts of themselves.  You wonder why there is an increase of eating disorders, dieting, purging, and over-exercising in middle and high school? Hmmm.  Your take?

I would love it if you could comment on this issue and/or tell your story for the book.  Please contact me through my story-collection website or let me know you’re interested in joining the facebook group “My body image story” by writing me a note on facebook.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

This is my body image story…


I’d Really Appreciate Your Help with Something that’s VERY Important…

I’m writing a book and I NEED your stories to help parents and adults understand what to do and what NOT to do when it comes to girls and body image.  The more you share the more everybody benefits!

We all have stories from our childhood that are unforgettable, especially when they involve how we feel about our bodies and our self worth. Many of these “body image stories” involve events that we’ve held onto because they involve turning points, deep wounds, or profound AHA moments. We remember where we were, who we were with, and what was said.

Some stories are heart wrenching. I’ve heard many. They involve pain, ridicule, humiliation, teasing, and bullying. They happen in school–The teacher embarrassed you in front of the class because you were heavier than your other classmates. The gym teacher continually allowed you to be picked last even though he knew it got to you. The popular girls weren’t just mean, they were unforgiveable. They happen at home—Your parents told you they were taking you shopping but instead take you to weight watchers. Your siblings make jokes about your weight, size, or clothes. Your grandparents give you diet meals for your birthday or call you Roley Poley because they think it’s cute and funny. Or perhaps you, yourself, constantly say negative things about yourself and your looks, and have been on countless diets or have done countless surgeries to try to change your looks—and one time something really bad happened.

Others are heartwarming. They involve parents, teachers, and friends who say something inspirational that make us remember to love “the skin we’re in.” They show us and tell us we’re beautiful no matter what our size. They don’t let us hide—they build us up and make holes in what the media calls “ideal.” Who or what gave you the inner confidence to say and KNOW that you’re attractive, worthy, and amazing no matter what the Hollywood tried to tell us about looks? These stories may simply involve our own inner voice that reminds us that there is more than one kind of beautiful and real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Those are the stories we can all learn from each day. They are the stories that allow us to inspire parents to know what to do and what to say to a child who doesn’t fit today’s supermodel ideal.

Please share YOUR STORY so that we can all learn and grow. Let’s hear the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful…

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

America the Beautiful Documentary: Is America Obsessed with Beauty?

A movie that answers the question: Is America obsessed with beauty?


In Chicago? This movie opens next week! Go here for details.

Darryl Roberts – Director of “America the Beautiful” says;

America the Beautiful is my 2 year journey into the world of beauty obsession, pop culture and plastic surgery. Leading up to this sadistic epiphany, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing some new television show about someone trying to be a top model or someone getting nipped or tucked. That’s when it hit me – we’re on a quest for physical perfection. That’s our “latest craze.”

I went into production on America the Beautiful in January of 2003 to find out. My journey initially consisted of interviewing some of the most beautiful people that our team could find. One of the things that I noticed was that the so-called beautiful people didn’t feel beautiful themselves. Most of them measure themselves by the same standards that so-called “average” people do. What is the standard of beauty that we sometimes try so hard to achieve and why is it so important? What gains do you really get from being beautiful? Who sets the standard? These questions lead to some of the interesting findings in the upcoming documentary America the Beautiful, that yes, advertisers are selling us a very unrealistic view of beauty and we’re buying it, with every penny that we have.

Read more from the director…

Gerren Taylor, featured in the film, a model, is seen here on Fox news talking about her experience. A size 4 but called “obese” in the industry, this film helped her to accept herself when her industry told her she was not thin enough.

Even Ensler, of the Vagina Monologues, was also featured in the film. She says; “women have to refuse to play” these games media plays with our minds and advises women to “re-perceive” what beauty means in our own minds independent of the media hype.


If you’re in Chicago, lucky you! Write us a review. We wish we could be their eating popcorn next to you!

No Diet or botox needed: How Does Photo- Retouching Work?

Media uses photo retouching for many reasons; changing color, lighting, and feel of pictures. Editors can put make-up on, take clothes away, thin out, bulk up, or completely change the model in the photo. Which leads to the questions; is it ever OK to look like yourself? Can real teens every look as good as the ones seen in the pages of the magazines? Are extreme body measures “necessary” to keep up with the likes of the PussyCat Dolls?

Sometimes it makes young girls look older, more mature, and sexualized:


Sometimes it’s used to make people better fit the “thin ideal.”

WARNING: This Video Shows a Woman’s Nude Bottom. For mature audiences only.


Sometimes it’s used to do a little of each.

WEIGH IN: What do you think– has media gone too far or should we always retouch in an attempt to appeal to the majority, adhere to societal standards, and “Look our best?”


BeingGirl Article Removed Due to Concerned Blogs


Congrats to all those who wrote about it! Proctor and Gamble removed the controversial article from their BeingGirl.Com website that many of the Body Image and Parenting Blogs, including KMA, wrote about recently.

Here is the result from our concerned colleagues over at Parents for Ethical Marketing who complained personally:

“As of Saturday morning, the article promoting eating-disordered behaviors at had been removed. Thanks to everyone who blogged about this (especially Rachel, where I first read about it) and to those who took the time to write or to call. I had received an email from Procter & Gamble after I complained and, as noncommital as it was, at least they responded to me.” Read the whole article.

Thanks Everyone!



Moms, Little Girls are Watching! Body Image and Addictions Passed On?

On a recent episode of Intervention, a show on A & E, a mother and daughter were highlighted. While the intervention was initially meant to be focused on the daughter, Caylee, it became clear that the mother, Christy, also needed help. As a young girl, Caylee remembers her mother picking on her and telling her that she was getting chubby. “You shouldn’t eat those french fries.” Christy policed what her daughter ate just as she policed her own food intake– passing on a fear of food and fat along with her bulimia that eventually lead Caylee to choose a life of hard drugs to escape it all.

Check out the clip here.

Christy and Caylee both went to rehab to work on their addictions.

intervention_caylee_small.jpg Here is Caylee’s update:

Notice that she called her relationship with her mother a “competition.” Body image and the quest for thinness have gotten so intense that it’s not just “out there,” it’s in our own homes– our havens. Home needs to be the one place that our girls can count on where competition, judgment, and societal pressure ceases. There is nothing more intense that “mommy pressure.”

Let’s help to keep our girls healthy– mind, body and soul. We may not be able to control the celebrities or the school teaser, but we can control how we act and interact with our girls.



Spring Cleaning on your Body Image


Since February is Love your Body month, it’s time to take inventory on how you’re doing in this department. No, no, not how you’re doing in the weight department– but rather, in the “loving your body” department.

The Curvy Life put out an assessment to put you to the test.

Curvy Angela writes:

The first step in decluttering body image is to uncover the mental and physical clutter we have around our bodies.  The following is a 10-point assessment to reveal areas in your life where you might be holding on to body image clutter:

  1. Do you spend thinking and/or worrying about your body, food, and exercise? How much time?
  2. Do you have nagging, negative feelings around the way you look?

Get the whole test here!
Have a powerful day!

Dr. Robyn

Body Image "Post" Card: What's your secret?

On my google alerts today, I found something that put a shiver down my spine. It was a card written on the “Post Secret” blog. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project that asks people to mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade card. Todays card was related to body image. It looks like the “secret” is actually drawn on the underside of a hotdog carton– although I could be mistaken. On the cardboard, there’s a drawing of a thin, naked woman looking forelorn and ashamed. The handwritten “secret” says “I am happier when I am hungry.” My guess is that she just ate something (if my guess about the hotdog container is correct, then perhaps a hotdog on the street) and is feeling ashamed of herself.

I find it particularly striking since you know if she’s thinking this way, so many others are as well.