Lead researcher Danielle DelPriore of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and colleagues said the study involved 64 heterosexual female undergraduates. Some were told to remember and write about a time that their biological father was absent for an important life event, or write about a time that their father was physically or psychologically present for an important life event.
Following the writing exercise, the women were asked to complete word stem tasks to assess activation of sexual concepts.
Prompts were used to detect sexual permissiveness and condom use attitudes by asking respondents on a 1-9 scale questions such as "sex without love is OK," "for me, having sex with someone does not necessarily imply that I am committed to that individual," or "I dislike using condoms due to reduced sexual pleasure."
"There is an abundance of research that shows when a father is absent that their daughters have accelerated sexual development, promiscuity and sexual risk taking," DelPriore said in a statement.
This study, accepted to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found women primed to discuss their father's absence responded to the word tasks in a more sexualized way.
The findings suggested a father's absence or low-quality parenting might signal to their daughter a long-term male investment in having children is unreliable or unnecessary, DelPriore said.