“For the Love of a Daughter” was composed by Demi Lovato and William Beckett, the lead singer for the American recording group, The Academy Is.... The song was recorded at Kite Studios in Los Angeles, California. It was produced, mixed and programmed by Toby Gad (The Veronicas, Selena Gomez & the Scene), who also provided the song’s instrumentation. It was originally recorded and selected to be included in Lovato’s second album, Here We Go Again, released in 2009. Although not planning to write a personal song, a "really long talk" with Beckett resulted in the song being written. The song was set to appear on the album, but Lovato and her management felt that the song's subject would be too much for her young audience. In an interview with Women's Wear Daily, she explained: "When I took a step back, I realized I wouldn't like those subjects being talked about in somebody else's home, with a seven-year-old and their mom." Several other "emotional" songs were also put on hold. The song was selected for inclusion in Lovato’s third studio album, Unbroken, which was released on September 20, 2011, just months after Lovato announced her departure from the Disney Channel series Sonny With a Chance.
The song chronicles Lovato's relationship with her estranged birth father, who left the family when she was four years old. In the song, she pleads with her father to "put the bottle down" and questions him: "How could you push me out of your world, lie to your flesh and your blood, put your hands on the ones that you swore you loved?" Indicative in the lyrics “It’s been five years since we’ve spoken last / And you can’t take back what we never had” is distance that has added to the strained relationship with her father. An author from Sputnikmusic interpreted it as a song about her relationship with her alcoholic father who didn't seem to see her as a good enough reason to stop drinking and be there for her when she needed him. Cristin Maher wrote that the lyrics are about a broken family, suffering through the pains brought on by addiction.
The song received critical acclaim from music critics. Embrace You Magazine commented that song as "definitely pulsating; it holds me tighter than "Skyscraper" and enlightens me further about the girl behind the music." Chris Williams for Reuters praised "For the Love of a Daughter" as "a moving, vulnerable, angry screed taking aim at the dad from whom she's been long estranged." Joe DeAndrea of AbsolutePunk noted it as the best track on the album and commented on Lovato’s vocals and the songs lyrics, noting that the two make "for the most enrapturing song of hers to date, and displays the true endeavors of what Unbroken is all about -- to overcome any obstacle and escape a better person."
Megan Rozell of Blogcritics compared it to "Skyscraper" and described it as "a wonderful ballad with a beautiful and poignant meaning and absolutely exceptional vocals." An author from Sputnikmusic noted it as one of the album’s highlights, commenting that Lovato "sings with so much sincerity and passion that she really gives the song life and meaning. This is her best song yet and a great closer to this heartfelt album." Jason Scott of seattlepi.com praised the song, commenting that it closes out the album "in stunning, tear-inducing style." Shaun Kitchener of Trash Lounge complimented the song, along with "Skyscraper" and "Fix a Heart", as "beautifully performed". Baby A. Gil of Philippine Star complimented the song as a "superb production". Rick Florino of Artist Direct named "For the Love of a Daughter" as the album’s "true standout", commented that it is "revealing and raw".