Daddy issues refer to something of a slang term for the idea of the Electra complex or Bernfield Factor. While Freud developed the term Oedipal Complex, the Electra Complex was pioneered by Carl Jung. Freud continued to use Oedipal Complex to refer to the idea of a child idealizing the different gendered parent to the point of sexual desire, and a desire, at least in part, to get rid of the same sex parent. Such behavior, when exhibited by females, was a desire to “become pregnant by the father and kill the mother,” or alternately, evoked the idea that women entering puberty suffered from “penis envy,” the failure to have a phallus.
There is a lot of debate on whether such daddy issues truly exist, and much debate on the Oedipal complex as a whole. Young girls may identify more with their mothers than fathers, but so may young boys. This may be culturally predetermined or situationally determined. It’s hard to know what a stay at home dad scenario would do to “daddy issues.”
Often though, in the colloquial sense, the idea of having daddy issues relates more to the fact that a girl received inadequate or inappropriate attention from the father figure in her life. An absent father might trigger a girl’s desire to seek male approval elsewhere, and as a teen or young adult, to do so in a sexual manner. An abusive father might seriously wound a father/daughter relationship. Girls, or young women, might express unresolved daddy issues by seeking relationships of a sexual or romantic nature with older men, or alternately, they might replicate their poor relationships with fathers by having abusive partners. Generally, daddy issues implies that a female remains incomplete and seeks some sort of fatherly or familial relationship with mates, which is not the best foundation upon which to build a relationship.
Fathers or strong and consistent male presence in a girl’s life do have a significant effect on self-esteem. This is largely undisputed by experts in psychology. Feeling attractive and loved by “daddy” (or other strong male figure) can help a girl have more confidence and strength. This is not necessarily penis envy, but it does appear as though girls and women can prosper better in their lives if they had positive male input from a father figure. Without that, girls may express daddy issues in seeking out father figures, or placing even very good men with whom they are in relationship, in positions that they really can’t adequately fill.
Daddy issues can thus be perceived as attempting to work out problems with the father/daughter relationship, either its complete absence, abuse of the relationship, or unreliability. A woman who goes through life without these issues is often one who had a secure and loving father figure in her life. A person still working on this may try to make today’s relationships “serve” a need that was not adequately fulfilled in childhood and adolescent years. This can lead to poor relationships with men in the present and the future, until the women is able to reconcile a past father/daughter relationship, often through therapy, that wasn’t altogether satisfactory.