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Study: Fathers, daughters strengthen relationships through sports

Fathers looking to foster a stronger relationship with their daughters may want to consider digging out their used sports equipment, according to the results of a recent study from Baylor University. After surveying a small group of fathers and daughters, researchers found that many of them pointed to the first time they played sports together as a turning point in their relationships. 

The findings, which were published recently in the Journal of Human Communication, were based off interviews with 43 fathers and 43 daughters who were not related to one another. Researchers asked the participants to write down what a critical moment in the relationship with their father or daughter was. The most mentioned moment among daughters was shared activities such as sports, vacations or working together. The results were similar for fathers, who cited sports as the most important factor saying it gave them a chance to bond with their daughters they may not have had otherwise.

A look at the responses offers some insight into why shared activities, and sports in particular, strengthened the bonds between father and daughter. One of the respondents said playing softball with her father made her feel more important, while a dad wrote that taking part in sports with his daughter allowed them to discuss other topics they may not have talked about otherwise.

Communications professors from the school were not surprised by the findings.

"This is the masculine style of building closeness - called 'closeness in the doing' - whereas the feminine orientation is talking, 'closeness in the dialogue,'" said Dr. Mark T. Morman.

Of course, the findings will not apply to everyone, especially given the small results. However, the Baylor researchers aren't the first to suggest that playing sports together as a family, even if it's just going for a jog or kicking the used soccer ball around, has considerable benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising together is a great way for families to encourage each other to stay fit. Not only that, but parents may find that instilling healthy habits in children at a young age will pay off much later. 

Regardless of what method families choose, physical activity is essential. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children between 6 and 17 get 60 minutes of aerobic activity each day. 

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