daddy issues

[dad-ee ish-oos]

What does daddy issues mean?

Daddy issues is an informal phrase for the psychological challenges resulting from an absent or abnormal relationship with one's father, often manifesting in a distrust of, or sexual desire for, men who act as father figures.

Examples of daddy issues


Examples of daddy issues
I gotta be able to call my man daddy. These daddy issues ain't going nowhere so he's gotta be into that.
@Ebony_QT, March, 2018
With his mommy and daddy issues sufficiently exorcised, Graham moves onto more adult worries with Forget the Night Ahead...
Ryan Dombal, Pitchfork, September, 2009
Lingering in the back of my head like a bad memory was the notion that yes, my 'daddy issues' had severely impacted my ability to love myself much less anyone else.
Michelle Dempsey, HuffPost, April, 2017

Where does daddy issues come from?

Psychologically speaking, daddy issues dates back to Carl Jung’s psychoanalytic theory of the Electra complex, in which a young female has a subconscious attraction to her father and competition with her mother. It’s the female iteration of Freud’s Oedipus complex.  Both complexes serve as explanations for dysfunction in children’s relationships with their opposite-sex parent.

Daddy issues emerges in the record at least by the 1990s, Author Charles Scull prominently used it in his 1992 family psychology book, Fathers, Sons, and Daughters: “Power and authority are daddy issues inside the bedroom as well as out. The first man a girl flirts with is her daddy.” Noted playwright Tony Kushner also used it in 1995 when describing his work in an interview with Vogue magazine: “My anger may be oedipal—mommy and daddy issues—but it’s politically, and dramaturgically, useful.”

The phrase daddy issues draws on daddy, a children’s diminutive for dad evidenced since the 16th century. It has been applied as a slang form of sexual address to various romantic partners, especially in gay, prison, and BDSM communities, throughout the 20th century, lending daddy a sexual subtext. Issues, for “psychological problems,” dates to the 1970s. Daddy issues also calls up daddy’s girl (cited in the 1920s), giving daddy issues a sense of childlike naivete and attachment.

Since the 1990s, daddy issues has evolved in the popular lexicon to describe a person, usually a woman and sometimes a gay man, who has a persistent need for affection, a fascination with older men, and a desire for validation. Singer Lana Del Rey and Lolita from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel have been noted as examples of women with daddy issues.

Daddy issues has been widely used in popular culture to reference women who have complicated relationships with their fathers (which then manifests in their personal lives). A 2011 episode of the popular TV drama The Vampire Diaries was called “Daddy Issues.” Since 2014, internet personality Violent Benson has posted under her the popular Instagram @daddyissues_.  Indie rockers The Neighbourhood cut a 2015 album called Daddy Issues and pop singer Demi Lovato released a 2017 single, “Daddy Issues,” about an absent father.

Who uses daddy issues?

Daddy issues is primarily used of women in colloquial speech and writing, both online and off, and mainly in the context of romance, dating, and sex.

Its connotation varies by context. When used by women of themselves, daddy issues can be earnest, used by women to explain recurrent behaviors in relationships, or humorous, used in lighthearted self-deprecation of those issues. When used by men of women, it can be dismissive or even misogynistic, diminishing undesirable traits in women. Dating advice websites for men, for example, may advise a man not to date a girl with daddy issues. In LGBTQ communities, daddy issues can be used in the context of a man in a relationship with an older man.

Mommy issues is the maternal equivalent, which is used more evenly across genders. It still carries the negative connotation of daddy issues, and it is used to describe emotionally unavailable men. Its sexual implications, however, are far less pronounced.

Given the negative connotation of daddy issues, psychologists generally label relationship challenges with fathers as a father complex, among other terms.

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