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Linda Nielsen - Wake Forest University. Winston-Salem, NC, US

Linda Nielsen Linda Nielsen

Professor of Education | Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC, UNITED STATES

Nielsen’s special interest is father-daughter relationships and shared parenting/joint physical custody for children with separated parents.



Linda Nielsen is a nationally renowned expert on father-daughter relationships and shared physical custody for children of divorce. For more than 25 years, she has taught the only known college class in the U.S. devoted exclusively to father-daughter relationships. Her latest book, Father-Daughter Relationships: Contemporary Research and Issues, is written for college students and professionals who work with families.

Her research on shared physical custody is widely cited worldwide, having an impact on custody law reform in the States and abroad. She has presented her research in State Bar Association magazines and in seminars for family court lawyers and judges. She was one of the keynote speakers in the 2016 International Conference for Shared Parenting Research. Her research has been cited in more than 13 countries, 16 states and 10 recent books on family law. She has been vetted in five states as an expert research witness in child custody hearings.

Among the many media outlets that have interviewed Nielsen and featured her research are: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, Star Tribune, USA Today, Time magazine, The Atlantic, U.S. News & World Report, Oprah magazine, National Public Radio, British Broadcasting Company, CNN, and the Public Broadcasting System (documentary).

Areas of Expertise (4)

Fathers and Daughters

Joint Physical Custody

Children of Divorce

Fatherhood Myths





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Accomplishments (2)

Outstanding Article Award (professional)


Awarded by the U.S. Center for Women Scholars

Postdoctoral Fellowship (professional)

Awarded by the American Association of University Women

Education (3)

University of Tennessee: Ed.D., Educational Psychology & Counseling

University of Tennessee: M.Ed., Educational Psychology & Counseling

University of Tennessee: B.S., Teacher Education

Affiliations (4)

  • American Psychological Association : Member
  • National Council on Family Relationships : Member
  • Council on Contemporary Families : Member
  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts : Member

Media Appearances (8)

15 Alarming Facts About Divorce In The US That Will Shock You

Business Insider India  


Young women who lacked the presence of their father experienced less educational prospects and weakened physical health than young women who had intact families. A study by Wake Forest expert Linda Nielsen found that young girls who grew up without the presence of their fathers may also be more likely to divorce and have other issues within their personal relationships.

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How Successful Are the Marriages of People With Divorced Parents?

The Atlantic  


Nielsen says that fathers can help daughters build confidence in themselves, and that this confidence serves them well when selecting their partners. Girls who grow up “hungry for a better and deeper relationship with their fathers,” she says, often try to satiate that hunger “very quickly, with the first guys that come along.”

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How Moms and Dads Divide the Work

The New York Times  


According to Nielsen, regardless of education or income, mothers do not always welcome or support the father’s equal participation in child rearing. To justify mothers being in a rage over child care because the world values men’s “needs, comforts and desires more than women’s” insults children and the dads who love them and long for more time with them.

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How a Wake Forest professor's research motivated a new Barbie ad campaign

Triad Business Journal  


The research of a Wake Forest University professor is playing a role in a national advertising campaign involving Barbie, one of the world’s most iconic dolls. Dr. Linda Nielsen has for more than 25 years taught a class at Wake Forest on the dynamics between fathers and their daughters. Mattel Inc.is crediting Nielsen as one of the motivating forces behind the company’s new “You Can Be Anything” campaign.

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Dads play Barbie with their daughters in the doll’s latest charming effort to modernize



Barbie cites research by Dr. Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University showing that girls who have loving, communicative, supportive relationships with their fathers from early childhood are less likely to suffer from a lack of self-confidence and self-reliance as they grow up.

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WFU research inspires father-daughter Super Bowl commercials by Proctor & Gamble

Time Warner Cable News  


Research from Wake Forest University helped inspire a unique commercial just before Super Bowl 50. Pantene released a series of digital spots this week that involves New Orleans Saints’ Benjamin Watson, Pittsburgh Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams and Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten styling their little girls hair. The hair care brand showcases the importance of father-daughter relationships with a message that it builds strong women. Pantene used Dr. Linda Nielsen’s research for the ads.

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More than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to promote shared custody of children after divorce

The Washington Post  


"The custody laws in our country were based on the sexist belief that mothers are better than fathers at raising children," said Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University. " . . . Well, the research does not support that."

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The Growing Case for Shared Parenting After Divorce



“One might be better for a particular age or a particular kid or a certain type of problem,” explains Linda Nielsen, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University, who has studied custody arrangements. Dads, for example, are more likely to engage kids in physical play, which helps kids learn how to handle their bodies (no hitting!) and their emotions on and off the field.

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Articles (4)

Demeaning, demoralizing, and disenfranchising divorced dads: A review of the literature Journal of Divorce and Remarriage

The most recent research demonstrates that too many fathers are demeaned, demoralized and disenfranchised after divorce in ways that make it difficult for them to maintain close relationships with their own children. Divorced fathers' relationships are ...

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Joint vs. Sole Physical Custody: Outcomes for children in 60 studies. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage

This paper is part of a two volume Special Issue on Shared Parenting, edited by Nielsen and cited worldwide in the discussion of custody law reform. Independent of family income, parental conflict or quality of parenting, children living 35%-50% time with each parent have better emotional, physical, academic, and behavioral outcomes than children who live primarily with one parent and see their other parent on an every other weekend basis.

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Re-examining the research on parental conflict and custody arrangements Psychology, Public Policy and Law (American Psychological Association Journal)

In this analysis of the research, Nielsen refutes the popular belief that children whose parents have uncooperative, conflicted relationships with each other cannot benefit from shared physical custody. Further, she demonstrates that parents whose children live in shared parenting families are not far more cooperative than other divorce parents.

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Woozles: Their role in family court, custody law reform and parenting plans Psychology, Public Policy & Law (American Psychological Association Journal)

This groundbreaking article is one of the three most downloaded articles in this A.P. A. journal, despite being six years old. In her analysis, Nielsen demonstrates how one Australian study was “woozled” (manipulated, misrepresented) worldwide in ways that had a negative impact on fathers’ spending overnight time with their infants and toddlers after the parents separated.

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