Understanding the Father Complex (“Daddy Issues”)

Contrary to the populous 'daddy issues' idea, in psychological terms, the father complex can impact children of any gender. Here's a thorough explanation.

The father complex is the psychological term that explains the modern-day “daddy issues”. Applicable to both genders, a father complex stems from one’s poor or toxic relationship with their father. A child’s psyche is unconsciously affected by this toxic relationship and these effects can progress with the child into adulthood and have a lasting impact due to their distorted needs for approval, support, love and understanding.

Understanding “daddy issues”

The term gets tossed around often and unfortunately, most of these people aren’t aware of what it really means.

If a woman puts out “too soon”, requires constant reassurance or doesn’t want to put herself out, she is believed to have daddy issues. The concept is highly misunderstood, consequently misused and overly gendered.

In light of the aforementioned, lack of a consistent father figure and other circumstances highlighted leads to an insecure attachment later on in life.


The “father complex” phrase first emerged from the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung who coined this term to describe the complicated reactions of male children to their father figures. However, Carl Jung argued that both, boys and girls could suffer from “father complex”.

Attachments styles moulded in childhood prolong into adulthood. The insecure attachment styles further comprise of different types

  1. Dismissive-avoidant. In this condition, an individual has trust issues as they fear being hurt.
  2. Fearful-avoidant. Involves running away from difficult, challenging feelings and feeling unsure about intimacy.
  3. Anxious-preoccupied. Feeling insecure about your partner leaving you, therefore, craving closeness and being anxious.

Why is the concept overly gendered?

As the term gained popularity, it became exclusively associated with women. However, as stated above, both men and women can suffer from the father complex and everyone has a different experience, the experience is as complex as the name suggests.

Amy Rollo, triple licensed psychotherapist explains, “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.”

Regardless of the term being associated with females, anyone with an attachment wound has the “father complex”. Masculine insecurity stems from not identifying with a father figure during childhood and results in shying away from dating and sex and compensating engaging in virile behaviour.

People who had traumatic relationships with their fathers tend to choose partners who end up disappointing them because for them, having that disappointing relationship is the norm. However, for some getting a partner similar to the parent is in hopes of filling that void and an unconscious hope of experiencing parental love.

Masculine insecurity stems from not identifying with a father figure during childhood and results in shying away from dating and sex and compensating engaging in virile behaviour.

Overcoming a father complex

Recovering from toxic parental experiences from childhood is not at all easy. It’s imperative to sit down and have insight (acceptance and awareness) of your childhood experiences and how they have shaped you. Follow patterns, if your relationships are déjà vu’s of the painful aspects of your childhood, revolve around anxiety, drama and insecurity, then perhaps you need to start making changes.

If you aren’t able to trace back to the roots of the father complex that are sown in your childhood experiences then seeking the help of a therapist may be the best solution. The therapist will help you gain insight and help change attachment patterns. This will help you be more in control of your mind and behaviour.


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