If you want to get ahead, girls, get a good dad

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Daddy's girls are everywhere. When Melissa Bell saw her father announce his intention to stand against Neil Hamilton in Tatton, she wasted no time in coming to his aid. "I saw my father on television and I just knew I had to come over here to help him. I had to lend him moral support. I totally back what he is doing and I am very proud of him."

Meanwhile, Sir Paul McCartney was praising his daughter Stella after she succeeded Karl Lagerfeld as head designer at Chloe at the age of 25. Sir Paul said: "It is a big job, but I am sure she's more than equal to the task. Her mum and I and all of her family are very proud of her."

The father-daughter relationship has taken a back seat in the past, with psychologists concentrating on the maternal bond. And with research such as Shere Hite's 1994 The Hite Report on the Family suggesting that more than one in four women "have no memory of affection by their father'' and that 38 per cent of daughters are angry with their father, we have been left with the image that the paternal relationship is more likely than not to be distant and unemotional.

That is simply not true and the balance needs to be restruck, say experts such as Adrienne Burgess, author of Fatherhood Reclaimed, and consultant psychologist Dr Petruska Clarkson, who has spent 25 years working in this field. Indeed, daughters who have strong relationships with their fathers may well turn out more successful, more confident and achieve more than those who only identify with their mother, Dr Clarkson argues.

She said: "Daughters who know they are loved by their fathers have an edge in the world. They feel more safe, more confident, more able to deal with the world. Scratch a successful female and you find a father."

The reason is the closeness a father and daughter can have without the complications and comparisons that can disrupt daughters' relationships with their mothers. "One of the important things a good father-daughter relationship can give is that the daughter is assured of her own attractiveness. I think it was Dawn French whose father told her she had a special kind of beauty and she has never doubted her physical or sexual attractiveness," Dr Clarkson said.

Sarah, a 34-year-old television producer, sees her father as a "good mate", although they weren't always that close. "We had argued a lot when I was younger and then the family went on holiday when I was in my twenties and we got on like a house on fire, and I realised that we had argued so much in the past because we were so similar.

"He is incredibly supportive of anything I do. If there's a problem he can be my first port of call."

According to Ms Burgess, research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Research, the idea of feckless fatherhood is largely a myth. In 1991 a study of long-term-unemployed fathers in the North-east found that, rather than watching television all day as the stereotype would have it, they completely took over the child-caring chores usually done by their wives.

"Children form a very strong attachment to their fathers in the first year, even if they only see them at weekends, and it is not replaced by someone else," said Ms Burgess. "As women we are always looking at how we are like our fathers, what parts of him are similar. We measure ourselves against him."