Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers (DoNF) – The Struggle of Growing Up in a Narcissistic Family

Growing up in a narcissistic family can be hell on earth for daughters of narcissistic fathers (DoNF).

Narcissistic fathers tend to be controlling, manipulative, and emotionally abusive. They may also be physically abusive or neglectful.

As the daughters of narcissistic fathers grow up, the negative effects of being raised in such an oppressive and abusive environment manifests in various ways.

They are highly likely to struggle with low self-esteem and a weak sense of self.

In addition, in most cases they find it very difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships, because they don’t know what healthy looks like.

daughters of narcissistic fathers

How Narcissistic Fathers Treat Their Daughters

Parent-child relationships play a crucial role in shaping a child’s personality, behavior, and overall mental health.

However, when a parent is a narcissist, this relationship can become complex and harmful.

Emotional Unavailability

One of the most prevalent characteristics in narcissistic fathers is emotional unavailability.

They remain distant or detached, showing little interest in their daughter’s feelings or experiences.

As a result their daughters feel ignored or invalidated, as their emotional needs are often overlooked or belittled.

The reason for this behavior can be traced back to the father’s inability to understand or empathize with others’ emotions, a common trait among individuals with narcissistic personality disorder.

This emotional void leads to daughters of narcissistic fathers feeling neglected and emotionally starved, impacting their self-esteem and emotional development.


A common tactic employed by narcissistic fathers is manipulation.

They use this tool to assert control over their daughters, bending their behaviors and decisions to their will.

This manipulation can take various forms – guilt, shame, fear, or even false promises.

For instance, they might set unrealistic expectations and then make their daughters feel guilty or inadequate for not meeting them.

They could instill fear by threatening to withdraw love, affection, or support if the daughter does not comply with their demands.

Additionally, they might dangle rewards or privileges in front of their daughters, only to withdraw them later, creating a cycle of manipulation and control.

This constant manipulation can have detrimental effects, leading to anxiety, low self-esteem, and a distorted sense of self-worth in the daughter.

Criticism and Belittlement

A narcissistic father often resorts to constant criticism and belittlement as a means to maintain control and superiority.

The daughter may find herself in a relentless cycle of striving to please her father, but her efforts and achievements are frequently downplayed or completely disregarded.

Even minor mistakes are blown out of proportion, creating an atmosphere where she feels like she’s perpetually falling short.

As a result of this ongoing criticism, daughters of narcissistic fathers often develop low self-esteem, a distorted self-image, and a continuous need for validation and approval, not just from their father but also from others around them.

daughters of narcissistic fathers


Living with a narcissistic father can be like walking on a minefield due to his unpredictable behavior.

One moment he may shower his daughter with affection and praise, and the next he may switch to harsh punishment or cold indifference without any clear reason.

This unpredictability creates a confusing, unstable, and anxiety-inducing environment for the daughter.

She may constantly feel on edge, never knowing what mood her father will be in or what behavior might trigger a negative response.

This lack of stability and consistency can lead to stress, anxiety, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships later in life.

narcissistic projection

Projection of Personal Failures

Narcissistic fathers often use a defense mechanism known as ‘projection‘ to cope with their insecurities and failures.

They tend to project their own shortcomings, mistakes, and disappointments onto their daughters, unfairly attributing their personal failings to them.

The daughter might find herself blamed for situations that she has no control over, or accused of causing her father’s unhappiness or dissatisfaction in life.

This can create a distorted sense of responsibility in the daughter, making her feel as if she’s to blame for her father’s problems.

Over time, this can lead to feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and a warped sense of self, as she internalizes her father’s criticisms and blames herself for his failures.

Projection isn’t just harmful to the daughter’s self-esteem; it also prevents the narcissistic father from acknowledging and dealing with his own issues.

By blaming his daughter, he avoids taking responsibility for his actions and confronting his own failures.

This refusal to accept accountability can exacerbate the father’s narcissistic tendencies and further strain the father-daughter relationship.

narcissistic projection

Excessive Control

The need for dominance and control is a defining characteristic of narcissistic fathers, often manifesting in their relentless desire to dictate every facet of their daughters’ life.

They will try to impose their will on everything, from her choice of clothes to her friendships, hobbies, and even career choices.

This level of control isn’t merely restrictive; it can suffocate the daughter’s personal growth and independence.

By constantly making decisions for her, the father inhibits her ability to form her own identity, make independent choices, and learn from her mistakes.

This excessive control can lead to feelings of frustration, rebellion, or even resignation in the daughter.

fathers of narcissistic daughters exert excessive control over their daughters

Lack of Boundaries

A lack of respect for personal boundaries is another common trait among narcissistic fathers.

They will invade their daughters’ privacy, dismiss their feelings, or make inappropriate comments about their personal life, all under the guise of ‘parental concern’ or ‘openness’.

This constant invasion can leave the daughter feeling violated, uncomfortable, and powerless.

It can also blur the lines between parent-child dynamics, with the father treating the daughter more like a possession than an individual.

This disregard for boundaries can lead to trust issues, difficulties in setting boundaries in future relationships, and a distorted sense of personal space and privacy.

narcissistic fathers

The Daughter’s Role in the Narcissistic Family

The dynamics within a narcissistic family are often complex and damaging, particularly for the children involved.

The daughters of narcissistic fathers can find themselves playing one of three primary roles – the golden child, the scapegoat, or the forgotten child.

Each role comes with its distinct set of burdens and challenges that can have lasting impacts on their mental and emotional well-being.

golden child of a narcissist

The Golden Child

In a narcissistic family, the golden child is often treated as an extension of the narcissistic parent, expected to fulfill all their needs and expectations.

This role might seem privileged from the outside, but it carries a heavy burden.

The daughter is not only groomed to be perfect, but she is also made responsible for the emotional well-being of her narcissistic father.

This places an unbearable weight on her young shoulders, leading to feelings of guilt and shame if she cannot meet these unrealistic demands.

Over time, this can result in anxiety, perfectionism, and a constant fear of failure.

In addition to the emotional toll, such a dynamic may contribute to the development of a Perfectionist personality type according to the Enneagram.

Recognizing and understanding this aspect of oneself through the Enneagram test can be a valuable step towards healing, providing insights into one’s behaviors and fostering a path towards self-compassion and growth.

golden child

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the child who bears the brunt of the narcissistic father’s frustrations and disappointments.

Any issues within the family are often blamed on her, and this blame can range from verbal abuse to physical mistreatment.

This persistent negative attention can cause significant psychological trauma.

The scapegoat is frequently seen as disposable by their narcissistic parent and put down harshly whenever anything goes wrong.

This can lead to feelings of worthlessness, chronic self-blame, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships.

The Narcissistic Family Scapegoat

The Forgotten Child

The forgotten child in a narcissistic family is the one who is often overlooked and ignored.

They neither receive the positive attention given to the golden child nor the crippling criticism aimed at the scapegoat.

Instead, they are pushed to the sidelines, growing up feeling forgotten and neglected.

This lack of attention can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness, and isolation.

They might struggle with feelings of invisibility, loneliness, and a deep-seated belief that they are unimportant.

unhappy young woman

The Impact of Narcissistic Fathers on Their Daughters

Narcissistic fathers have a profound and long-lasting impact on their daughters.

This influence can affect every aspect of a daughter’s life, from her self-esteem and emotional health to her relationships and career choices.

Here are some of the key impacts:

low self esteem

Low Self-Esteem and Diminished Self-Worth

Growing up under the oppressive control of a narcissistic father, a daughter might find herself grappling with persistent feelings of inadequacy and a deeply ingrained sense of low self-esteem.

The constant onslaught of criticism and belittlement she endures can erode her confidence and self-worth, making her question her abilities and value.

In this environment, her accomplishments are frequently dismissed or downplayed, and her efforts to gain approval or praise are often met with indifference or harsh critique.

This consistent devaluation can lead her to believe that she is perpetually falling short, that she’s never good enough, no matter how hard she tries or how much she accomplishes.

sad girl

Distorted Self-Image

The narcissistic father’s distorted mirror reflects not the true value of the daughter but his own insecurities and shortcomings.

This skewed reflection can cause the daughter to internalize a distorted image of herself, leading her to believe that she is unworthy of love, respect, or success.

Over time, this erosion of self-esteem can seep into every facet of her life, affecting her academic performance, career progress, and relationships.

She may shy away from opportunities due to a fear of failure or rejection, and she may settle for less in relationships, believing she doesn’t deserve better.

secrets and shame

Shame and Guilt

This diminished self-worth doesn’t just affect her external life; it can also lead to a profound inner turmoil.

Daughters of narcissistic fathers often struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy, constantly questioning her worth and value.

This internal struggle can be emotionally exhausting and can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

daughters of narcissistic fathers

Heightened Anxiety and Depression

Living under the influence of a narcissistic father can be a psychological battlefield for a daughter.

The unpredictable behavior, coupled with the excessive control that such a father often imposes, can foster a highly stressful environment.

This constant state of tension can leave her perpetually on edge, always in anticipation of what might ignite the next bout of anger or criticism.



In such an environment, daughters of narcissistic fathers find themselves navigating a minefield of emotional volatility.

The unpredictability of their father’s reactions can lead to a state of hypervigilance, where they are constantly bracing for potential outbursts or emotional upheavals.

This relentless anticipation can be incredibly draining, both emotionally and mentally, pushing them into a state of chronic anxiety.

anxiety symptoms in women

Anxiety Disorders

The continuous stress and anxiety can gradually morph into more serious mental health disorders.

Over time, a constant state of fear and apprehension can culminate into full-blown anxiety disorders.

Living in an environment that feels like an emotional war zone can also lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, paving the way for depression.

Moreover, the emotional neglect and lack of empathy often displayed by narcissistic fathers can amplify these mental health issues.

The absence of emotional support and understanding can leave daughters feeling isolated and alone in their struggles. This isolation can magnify feelings of anxiety and deepen the pit of depression.

Negative Self-Talk: The Toxic Impact of Narcissistic Abuse

Negative Self-Talk

Beyond anxiety and depression, daughters of narcissistic fathers may also develop a harsh inner critic.

They internalize their father’s criticism and project them onto themselves, leading to self-blame and guilt.

This internalized voice can exacerbate their anxiety and depression, creating a destructive cycle of negative self-perception and emotional distress.

Toxic Relationship Quotes

Relationship Challenges

The influence of a narcissistic father can cast a long shadow over a daughter’s future relationships.

Often, the lack of boundaries and respect for personal space that characterizes such a paternal relationship can lead to significant difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships later in life.

Relationship Challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers

Problems with Boundaries

A narcissistic father’s disregard for personal boundaries can distort a daughter’s understanding of what constitutes a normal relationship.

She may grow up believing that it’s acceptable for others to invade her personal space, disrespect her boundaries, or control her decisions.

This distorted perception can make it challenging for her to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy or abusive.

problems with boundaries

Setting boundaries can be another area of difficulty.

If a daughter’s attempts to set boundaries were met with anger or dismissal by her narcissistic father, she may hesitate to establish boundaries in her future relationships.

She might fear that asserting her needs will lead to rejection or conflict, causing her to allow others to overstep her personal boundaries.

Relationship Challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers

Trust Issues

Trust can also become a significant issue for daughters of narcissistic fathers.

Having experienced the unpredictability and manipulative tactics of a narcissistic parent, she finds it difficult to trust others.

She might constantly worry that people will betray her, let her down, or take advantage of her, leading to a guarded approach in relationships.

Relationship Challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers

No Role Models

Moreover, understanding what constitutes a healthy relationship can be a struggle.

Growing up with a narcissistic father as a role model, she is not likely to have seen what a respectful, balanced, and emotionally nurturing relationship looks like.

This lack of a healthy blueprint can lead her to accept less than she deserves in her relationships, mistaking control, manipulation, or emotional unavailability for normalcy.

Relationship Challenges daughters of narcissistic fathers

Problems with Identity Formation

Narcissistic fathers often exert overwhelming control over their children’s lives, leaving little room for the daughter to explore her own interests, preferences, and values.

This excessive control can thwart their attempts to make independent decisions, as these daughters have been conditioned to seek approval or fear retaliation.

This can result in an internal struggle marked by identity confusion, difficulties in self-assertion, and a lack of independence.

As a result, they often find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings freely, inhibiting the formation of a strong, autonomous identity.

daughters of narcissistic fathers problems with identity formation

Identity Confusion

This stifling environment can lead to a state of identity confusion.

The daughter may struggle to understand who she truly is, separate from her father’s influence.

She might find herself unsure of her own beliefs, likes, dislikes, and ambitions, as her father’s dominating presence may have overshadowed her personal development.

problems with identity formation

Lack of Autonomy

Furthermore, the constant manipulation and control can make it challenging for the daughter to assert herself.

Her narcissistic father brainwashed her into suppressing her desires in order to appease him.

This suppression can lead to difficulties in asserting her needs and standing up for herself in other relationships and settings.

The lack of autonomy fostered by a narcissistic father can also result in a lack of independence.

The daughter becomes so accustomed to having decisions made for her that she struggles to make choices on her own.

This can extend into adulthood, causing difficulties in taking initiative, making decisions, and managing her life independently.

daughters of narcissistic fathers problems with identity formation

Guilt and Responsibility for Others’ Emotions

Growing up under the influence of a narcissistic father can often lead to a profound sense of guilt and an inflated sense of responsibility for others’ emotions.

This stems from the tendency of narcissistic fathers to project their own failures, unhappiness, and emotional distress onto their daughters.


Emotional Projection of Failure

Narcissistic fathers often deflect their own emotional discomfort onto their children, making them feel as if they are responsible for their parent’s negative feelings or disappointments.

They may blame their daughters for their own shortcomings or express discontent in a way that implies the daughter is the cause.

This can lead to a distorted sense of responsibility, where the daughter feels it is her duty to manage her father’s emotions, leading to excessive guilt when she fails to do so.

daughters of narcissistic fathers - guilt

Taking On Responsibility for Others

This guilt and over-responsibility can extend beyond the father-daughter relationship into other areas of her life.

She may carry this burden into her adult relationships, feeling overly responsible for the emotions and wellbeing of others.

This can result in her taking on others’ problems, constantly trying to appease or please them, and feeling guilty when she cannot alleviate their distress.


Low Self-Care and Boundaries

Moreover, this can also lead to a lack of self-care. In her pursuit to take care of others’ emotions, she might neglect her own needs and feelings.

This can lead to emotional exhaustion, burnout, and a diminished sense of self-worth.

Furthermore, the excessive guilt can also manifest in difficulty saying no to others.

Fearing the potential backlash or feeling responsible for others’ disappointment, she might find herself unable to set boundaries or prioritize her own needs.

low self-care and boundaries

Fear of Failure

Growing up with a narcissistic father who incessantly criticizes and belittles her efforts can significantly shape a daughter’s perception of success and failure.

This environment can instill a deep-seated fear of failure in her, which can have far-reaching implications on her decision-making, risk-taking, and the pursuit of her dreams.

fear of failure

Unrealistic Expectations

A narcissistic father often sets unrealistic expectations of perfection and success for his children.

When these expectations are not met, the child might face harsh criticism, ridicule, or even emotional withdrawal.

Over time, this can lead to the internalization of the fear of failure.

The daughter may begin to associate failure with rejection and emotional distress, creating an intense fear that can be paralyzing.

Holding Back from Opportunities

This fear of failure can hold her back from seizing opportunities or taking risks.

Even when an opportunity presents itself, she may hesitate to take it up, fearing the potential failure and the subsequent criticism or disappointment.

This can result in missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.

daughters of narcissistic fathers - fear of failure

Moreover, this fear can also deter her from pursuing her dreams.

She may abandon her aspirations if they involve the risk of failure.

She might choose safer, less fulfilling paths that align more with her father’s expectations than her own passions and interests.

Constant Need for Validation

Additionally, this fear of failure can manifest in a constant need for validation.

She may seek constant reassurance and approval from others to compensate for the lack of support and validation from her father.

This can lead to dependency on external validation, undermining her self-confidence and self-esteem.

Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – Healing The Wounds

The journey to healing is profoundly personal and often fraught with challenges. However, recognizing the root of these wounds is a critical first step.

Recognizing the Problem

Acknowledging the source of your pain is helpful because it gives your struggle a name, validates your emotions, and proves that healing from it is possible.

Setting Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are crucial. This might mean limiting contact or defining clear ground rules for interaction to protect your emotional health.

Seeking Therapy and Support

Therapy, particularly with specialists familiar with narcissistic behaviors, can be a revelatory experience. Support groups offer comfort in shared experiences and collective wisdom.

Building Self-Confidence and Self-Love

Develop affirmations that resonate with your worth, dive into hobbies that affirm your individuality, and practice self-compassion daily.

Final Thoughts: Hope and Healing for Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers

The psychological implications of growing up with a narcissistic father can be profound, affecting various aspects of a daughter’s life.

From instilling an intense fear of failure to overwhelming her with guilt and responsibility, a narcissistic father can leave lasting scars.

However, it’s essential to remember that these consequences do not define the future of these daughters.

Despite the hardships they face, there’s immense potential for healing, growth, and resilience in daughters of narcissistic fathers.

With time, support, and resilience, daughters of narcissistic fathers can reclaim their lives, rewrite their narratives, and build a future filled with self-esteem, fulfillment, and emotional health.

Remember, the past may shape us, but it does not have to define us

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissistic Fathers and their Daughters

What are the common roles daughters play in narcissistic families?

Daughters can play various roles in narcissistic families, including the golden child, the scapegoat, or the forgotten child. Each role carries its own set of challenges and psychological implications.

How does growing up with a narcissistic father affect a daughter’s self-esteem?

A narcissistic father often sets unrealistic expectations and frequently criticizes his children, which can severely damage a daughter’s self-esteem. She may start to believe she is never good enough and develop a constant need for validation.

Can daughters of narcissistic fathers develop mental health issues?

Yes, daughters of narcissistic fathers are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and complex PTSD. They might also struggle with feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and fear of failure.

How can a daughter of a narcissistic father heal from her past?

Healing is a personal journey that often involves therapy, joining support groups, educating oneself about narcissism, and practicing self-care. It’s crucial to remember that healing takes time and everyone progresses at their own pace.

Is it possible for daughters of narcissistic fathers to have healthy relationships in the future?

Absolutely. While they might face some challenges initially due to their past experiences, with time, therapy, and conscious effort, they can learn to establish healthy boundaries, communicate effectively, and build meaningful and nurturing relationships.

How can daughters of a narcissistic fathers get help?

Seeking help from a mental health professional is a crucial first step. They can guide you through your healing journey. Joining support groups, reading up on narcissism, and practicing self-care can also be beneficial.

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