13 Ways Narcissistic Fathers Affect Their Daughters

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Narcissistic fathers are toxic parents who are typically grandiose in narcissistic style, bragging about their superiority to family and friends while tearing down their own immediate family without mercy in the privacy of their own home. They are harshly critical of their children, whom they feel are extensions of their own identity and reflections of their parenting ability. 

The damage a narcissistic father can do to their children is something that can last their entire lifetime. It’s important to remember that the children of narcissistic parents may not realize they are being subjected to abuse. They have grown up their whole lives with their parents, so how would they know?

I didn’t realize there was anything different about my narcissistic mother until a friend made a comment about something she said to me. I had felt like I could never do anything right, but I thought everyone suffered the same fate. It wasn’t until my friend said something that I suddenly realized that wasn’t true. That changed my perspective in profound ways.

Let’s explore how narcissistic fathers treat their daughters, how that differs from their sons, and how their behavior damages their daughters, sometimes for the rest of their lives. 

How Do Narcissistic Fathers Treat Their Daughters?

How Do Narcissistic Fathers Treat Their Daughters

Narcissistic fathers are like all narcissists in that they can only focus on their own needs. They don’t have the capacity to empathize with other people, so they don’t understand how their behavior affects them. 

They don’t see the damage they are doing. They only know that they need something from their children, and if they don’t think they’re getting it, they will become increasingly critical of them. 

Narcissistic fathers often see their daughters as lifelong sources of narcissistic supply, as explained in this video. They may often groom them to be a kind of replacement spouse when, as they know may happen, their own spouse tires of their behavior, and the relationship ends. 

The relationship with a daughter, however, never ends, so they see the potential in turning her into a long-term source of the supply they so desperately need. They are, therefore, fiercely overly protective of their daughters, and sometimes, they engage in emotional incest. 

“Narcissists don’t see their children as separate people
 that have a right to experience life from their own angle. There is no option in their heads in which the kids will be in charge of their own lives ‘unaided’ by the narcissist.”

Diana Macey, Narcissistic Mothers and Covert Emotional Abuse: For Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents

While they may never consummate their incestuous relationship physically, emotional incest is equally as damaging. If his daughter resists that and rebels against her father’s control, he begins to devalue her. 

He can be ruthless in his criticism of her and won’t hesitate to wound her metaphorically where it hurts the most. He may attack her appearance, her intellect, or her abilities. On the other hand, he may also opt to completely ignore her, something that can be equally as damaging. 

Do Narcissistic Fathers Treat Sons and Daughters Differently?

Narcissistic fathers do have a different relationship with their daughters than they do with their sons. Their sons often represent competition for the narcissistic man. They are, after all, younger, stronger versions of themselves. 

While they may groom them to follow in their own footsteps, they are often harshly critical of their sons to push them beyond their limits. They may even bully their own sons. When, as inevitably happens, the son rebels against his father’s control, the father may cut him out of his life altogether. 

With daughters, however, the narcissistic father is usually more protective as opposed to competitive. He still will be critical of her if she rebels and may cut her out of his life, but he tends to look at her more as a source of narcissistic supply. 

How Does a Narcissistic Father Damage His Daughters?

There are a number of ways that a narcissistic father can damage his daughter. Some of the damage may persist for the majority of her life, particularly if she doesn’t realize what has happened and take the necessary steps to heal. 

The extent of the damage depends on several factors, but suffice it to say it can be extreme. Let’s take a closer look at the following 13 common ways a narcissistic father can damage his daughter.

1. Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is one possible effect of narcissistic abuse by fathers on their daughters. It includes symptoms of intense shame, social withdrawal, despair, hostility, and somatization of psychological disturbances. 

It also causes a narcissistic father’s daughter to see herself in a negative light, and it leads to significant interpersonal problems.  Researchers at universities in Greece and the United Kingdom also note that it involves emotional dysregulation. 

“Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (Complex PTSD) 
has been originally proposed by Herman[1], as a clinical syndrome following precipitating traumatic events that are usually prolonged in duration and mainly of early life onset, especially of an interpersonal nature and more specifically consisting of traumatic events taking place during early life stages (i.e., child abuse and neglect).” 

Giourou et al. (2018)

It can have profound effects on a person’s life, much in the same way that PTSD affects veterans and other victims of singular traumatic events. It may also be a comorbidity with other Cluster B personality disorders, notably borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

It was of the ways that a narcissistic father could severely damage his daughter and leave her with the effects of his abuse for the remainder of her life.

2. Insecure Attachment Styles

The way your parents treat you in infancy is a big part of what forms your attachment. When they respond to your needs and show you that you are loved and wanted, you tend to learn the world is a safe place where your needs will mostly be met. 

If, on the other hand, one or both parents neglect you or don’t respond to your needs, you learn the world is an unsafe place where your needs may not be met. In the former case, you tend to develop a secure attachment style, while in the latter, you develop one of the three other styles of attachment. 

The 4 Attachment Styles Source
1. Secure attachment The individual is comfortable expressing emotions and thrives in relationships
2. Anxious/Preoccupied The individual fears being alone and being abandoned and views themselves negatively while viewing others positively
3. Avoidant/Dismissive The individual has high self-esteem and views themselves positively, but they avoid emotional closeness and hide their emotions from others
4. Disorganized/fearful avoidant The individual does not regulate their emotions well, and they view themselves and their partners with both desire and fear. They avoid strong emotional attachment

When you develop an insecure attachment style, you have difficulty forming long-term relationships. You tend to have problems trusting other people and experiencing emotional closeness. 

Clearly, this has important implications for how well or not you’re able to form and maintain relationships. Children of narcissistic fathers often don’t get the kind of care required to form secure attachment styles. 

While he may initially be proud of his child and brag about their superiority as a reflection of his own, he has relatively little interest in caring for them on a personal level. It would require him to look beyond his own needs, something all narcissists are reticent to do.

3. Sense of Inadequacy

Sense of Inadequacy

Because many daughters of narcissistic fathers develop insecure attachment styles, they often view themselves as inadequate. Their father has likely been harshly critical of them from a young age, and they have been left with the view of themselves as “not enough.” 

That sense of inadequacy can affect their decisions throughout the course of their life. They might not, for example, pursue opportunities they otherwise would because they don’t believe themselves to be up to the task. 

It also has a profoundly negative effect on their relationships. They either become people-pleasers, or they avoid intimacy altogether. It is one of the most difficult self-concepts to overcome since it tends to underlie numerous personality traits that can limit an individual’s life.

4. Failed Adult Relationships

Narcissistic fathers often damage their daughters so severely that they are unable to form healthy adult relationships. Instead, they move from one relationship to another, seeking something they can’t quite define. 

“Narcissistic fathers leave their daughters with deep doubts
about whether a man can love them since the first important man in their life was so in love with himself that he had no love left for them.”

Howard M. Halpern, Psychotherapist and author 

They are looking for someone to love them unconditionally, something a narcissist can never do. They tend to sabotage the relationships they do have as they engage in dysfunctional behaviors designed to force the issue.

5. Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression

Of course, the insecure attachment styles that a daughter of a narcissistic father develops leaves her feeling anxious for most of her life. Added to that is the difficulty she typically has in making decisions and forming healthy relationships. 

It’s easy to see how her chronic anxiety can lead to depression. Depression has a dramatic effect on relationships and her ability to make decisions. 

It can leave her feeling paralyzed and uncertain regarding how to proceed. She may experience a sensation of hopelessness. Such anxiety and depression can cause the daughter of such a toxic father to need medication for the rest of her life.

6. Personality Disorders

Another way in which a narcissistic father can damage his daughter is that he may cause her to develop a personality disorder of her own. If he chooses her as a golden child, something narcissists typically do with their children, he becomes so overly protective that she is traumatized by never being able to do anything for herself. 

While that may sound ideal, particularly if you were a narcissist’s scapegoat, it’s actually more damaging than being the recipient of his constant criticism. It can easily disrupt your developing sense of self, and that is the basis for narcissistic personality disorder, among other problems. 

Many golden children develop narcissism themselves. It’s also possible, however, that the daughter of a narcissistic father could develop borderline personality disorder. Like narcissism, borderlines lack a well-developed sense of self, and both are Cluster B personality disorders

They may even be diagnosed with both conditions. Many of the same factors that result in one also result in the other condition. They also have overlapping symptoms. Of course, if a child develops one or both of these, it will be a lifelong condition she will be forced to deal with.

7. Daddy Complex

Daddy Complex

Many daughters of narcissistic fathers develop daddy issues. Their father was their first real love relationship with a man. As a narcissist, he couldn’t give her the unconditional love every child craves. 

As a result, she spends much of her adult life trying to recreate that relationship and make it work out right this time. She is desperately seeking his love, and it is something he will never be able to give her, not in the way she fantasizes anyway. 

It creates a sad string of broken relationships and a deepening sense of failure for the daughter. It reaffirms what her father taught her, that she is essentially unlovable. 

“By unconsciously seeking out unattainable/emotionally
unavailable/married or simply not interested men, I can obsessively reenact my father/daughter dynamic in the vain hope that if I can convince the said man to love and notice me, then surely my father will notice and love me too.”

Alex Alexander, Author

8. Fear of Intimacy

Because her father was aloof and even neglectful, the daughter of a narcissistic father often learns to fear intimacy herself. Her father used any knowledge of her likes, dislikes, and vulnerabilities against her. 

That often teaches her to fear intimacy because if someone knows her that well, they are likely to use that knowledge against her for their own benefit. So she becomes increasingly fearful of getting too close, much like her own father. 

This fear prevents her from forming healthy, close adult relationships. That cements her belief that she is inherently flawed, which can result in her being alone for much of her life.

9. Alienation from Other Close Family Members

Alienation from Other Close Family Members

Narcissistic parents use a technique called triangulation against their own family members. They tell one family member one thing and another something entirely different. They do this to create drama within the family and prevent the formation of close relationships. 

Narcissists will even use triangulation against their own children, and it is an insidious technique that serves to alienate their children from one another and their other parent. They can’t trust anyone, and it causes infighting and hurt feelings that can destroy relationships. 

The narcissist wants this exact outcome since it will prevent other family members from aligning against him. A narcissistic father doesn’t want his children to get together and compare notes, so he would rather destroy their relationships before that can happen.

10. Risky Behaviors

Another effect of having a narcissistic father is that his daughter may begin to engage in riskier and riskier behaviors as she gets older. She is trying to get her father’s attention and love, and she may decide that the best way to do that is to put herself at risk. 

This may mean choosing increasingly risky romantic partners, boys and men her father would never approve of, or it may mean using drugs or drinking excessively. She feels that if she hurts herself in some way, her father will finally pay attention to her. 

Of course, her narcissistic father doesn’t see this kind of behavior for what it is, a cry for help. Instead, he sees it as a personal insult against him, and he typically lashes out at her even more harshly. 

This drives her away even further, and her behavior can become more extreme as a result. She is looking to get him to show that he notices her and loves her, but the nature of his personality disorder is such that all he can see is how she is damaging his carefully crafted image.

11. Codependency


Another type of damage that a narcissistic father inflicts on his daughter is something called codependency. Codependency is formed when a child learns that their needs don’t matter. You can learn about how it differs from narcissism in this video. They are raised in a family where they are not prioritized, and as a result, they learn to put their own needs aside in favor of pleasing the other people in the family. 

This is a typical reaction of a daughter to the abuse she suffers from her narcissistic father. She wants to please him. She wants him to notice how wonderful she is, but he can’t see her. She becomes a people-pleaser to show him her inherent value, but he never appreciates it. 

Once the pattern of codependency develops, it follows an individual into adulthood. They seek out adult relationships where they become equally codependent. It is, after all, what they know as normal. 

If I could have had him, I could have let him go.

But without the having there was nothing—so to the nothing Hold.”

Coco J. Ginger, Author and poet

12. Inability to Form Friendships with Other Women

Another very damaging result of the abuse a daughter suffers from her narcissistic father is that she lacks the ability to form friendships with other women. She is focused on her relationships with men in her life, and she disregards female friends. 

She is overly focused on trying to gain her father’s love, and she can’t see the value of having female friends. It often results in her being overly sexualized, and she is unable to develop deep friendships. 

That often prevents her from getting the kind of advice most women need as they seek out male partners. She doesn’t have the female perspective she needs to see more clearly the problems and patterns in her choices.

13. Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Narcissistic fathers frequently objectify their daughters and teach them that their appearance takes precedence over other characteristics. They learn to obsess over their weight and notice only the flaws in their appearance. 

Often these are flaws that would be unnoticeable to other people, but to an overly critical narcissistic father and his damaged daughter, they take center stage. This can result in eating disorders as well as severe mental problems that plague a woman her entire life. 

The narcissistic father does this as a manipulation technique. He wants his daughter to reflect what he believes is his own perfection, and flaws in her appearance make him look bad. He cares little about how this affects his daughter.

Final Thoughts

The abuse a narcissistic father heaps on his daughter causes many different types of damage. Sometimes this can last for the rest of her life, and it often has a profound effect on her ability to form healthy adult relationships. He uses her vulnerabilities to manipulate her, and the damage he does leaves severe emotional wounds that he then uses to trigger her sense of vulnerability so he can manipulate her more easily. 

But you don’t have to endure that if you’re the daughter of a narcissistic father. I’ve created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers that is designed to help you recognize your emotional triggers and defuse them while you heal the underlying wounds that created them. If he can’t trigger you, he can’t use those old wounds to manipulate you. That’s an important element of your healing journey. If you would like your free copy of this handy guide, just click on this link here, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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