Fatherless Sons: Exposing the Epidemic and Breaking the Cycle


For the past two months, I have been hearing a great deal about Oprah’s Lifeclass series on "Fatherless Sons," and was finally able to watch a full episode last night.

It was not long into last night’s show before I realized it would be difficult to watch the entire show without being reminded of the painful stories and letters that I have heard and read over the past 11 years.

One of the stories I was reminded of while watching was a conversation I had with a 9th grade young man four or five years ago. This young man waited to speak with me after class and shared the following: 

I try to act like it doesn’t bother me that my father is not a part of my life and I try not to be upset with my mom. But lately little things have been happening that have been making me SOOO angry. I play on the football team and last Friday night all of the players had to wear a necktie to the game. My mom had to get a friend of hers to come over to our house to tie my tie. Do you know how angry that made me? My father should have taught me how to tie a tie.”

Who knew that something as simple as not knowing how to tie a tie would be enough to make a young man so angry? But we all know that it is not really just about the tie, don’t we? The tie is just another reminder to this young man that he is left to figure out how to become a man on his own! 

And we wonder why so many young men, as well as adult men for that matter, are incarcerated for committing violent acts. Many of the young men that I meet are angry and don’t even know why. The ones who do know the source of their anger, often take that anger out on others because they cannot take it out on their absent fathers. 

The Consequences of Fatherlessness 

There is a "father factor" in nearly all of the social issues facing America today.

Statistics show that children who live absent their biological fathers have increased chances of:

·      Growing up in poverty
·      Being abused
·      Committing crimes and being incarcerated
·      Using drugs and alcohol
·      Experiencing obesity
·      Becoming sexually active at an early age
·      Becoming a teen parent

Physically Present, but Emotionally Absent

And if the issue of fathers not being physically present is not bad enough, there is also an issue with fathers who are physically present but not emotionally connected with their children.

Within the past two weeks, two mothers have shared with me that their husbands take a hands-off approach to parenting with their kids. In one of the instances, the mother said her son is negatively acting out and she knows his behavior is a cry for attention from his father. They both desperately wanted to know what they could do to get their husbands to understand that they need to be actively engaged in their children’s lives.

My advice to both mothers was to have their husbands watch one of the clips from the "Fatherless Sons" series (I would recommend that you watch it as well). In this clip, an adult man, Kyle, is told to look into the camera and tell his father how his absence has impacted his life.

As Kyle shared his hurt, pain, anger and disappointment, the cameras panned the room. It was a very emotional experience to see old, young, black, white and Latino men in the audience weeping as they were told to also think about what they would say to their own absent fathers. I told the mothers that I could not see how any man could watch that clip and not step up to the plate as a father to make sure his child never has to experience that pain. 

The 4 Things Every Son Needs from his Father

One of the guests in the audience was Roland Warren, former President and current board member of the National Fatherhood Initiative. The four questions below are from his article that explains the simple but critical support any dad can give his child. The answers to the following questions are a good indication of whether a father is giving his son what he needs:

  1. Does my son know that he matters to me?
  2. Does my son know that I love him?
  3. Does my son know that what he does is important to me?
  4. Does my son know how proud I am of him?

How to Break the Cycle of Fatherlessness

If you are a fatherless son, there are several things you must do to make sure you do not repeat the cycle: 

·      Allow God to fill the void left by your father.

·      Forgive your father so you can be healed of your own pain and move forward as a healthy man.

·      "Forgive yourself for believing there was something lacking in you because he wasn’t there." ~Iyanla Vanzant

·      If you don’t have children yet, “If you can't make her a wife then don't make her a mother.” ~Kenny Pugh

·      If you do have children and you are not in the house with them, do everything in your power to be actively involved in their lives. Accept no excuses! 

If you had a father who was and is actively engaged in your life, I hope you understand how blessed you are and do not take it for granted. If you are a father and you are actively engaged in your children’s lives, I applaud you!

Please share your story below so we can all learn from each other!


  1. Patricia says:

    Hi, your post brought me to tears. I have a 2 year old and his dad walked out when I was pregnant. He's only ever seen his son once (his choice) on his 2nd birthday. A few weeks later he relinquished all rights to his son so he could be exempt from paying child support. My boy asks me now "where's my daddy?". What do I say / do? I don't have brothers / uncles. I don't have a boyfriend. I'm concerned as I see the longing in his eyes when he sees other children with whole families. He longs for a dad. I don't want him to experience the rejection / anger you mention in your post but I can love him as much as possible but still not fulfil that 1 cardinal need he has.

    • Jackie Brewton says:

      Thank you Patricia for sharing your concerns about your son. I am so sorry that you are left to raise your son alone. Since you don’t have male role models in your family, I would recommend that you enroll your son in a mentoring program when he gets older. I wouldn’t recommend a mentoring program for him at his age currently. He is too young. If/when you do enroll him in a program, just make sure you do your research on the organization/program/mentor to make sure you can trust him/them with your son. Even then, I would be careful about allowing your son to be alone with any adult.

      I know I may be overstepping my boundaries here, but would you be willing to allow your son’s father to be a part of your son’s life if he didn’t pay child support? Or would he even be willing/interested in being an involved father? I know it’s not right that he gets out of paying, but what your chld needs more than anything else is to know that his father loves him. Unfortunately, children don’t measure love by money, they measure it by time spent with them. You’re correct when you say that you can love him as much as humanly possible, but it still will not take the place of the love he longs for from his father. 

      My prayers are with you and your son!

  2. I am so encouraged by what you do. Thank you so much!  

    It would be great for you to have a seminar for young men of middle/high school and college age to go over the importance of this very matter. I would come as a volunteer  to serve in any capacity that I could. 


    • Lynn,

      You know my favorite audience is boys/young men. I find them to be very receptive when they are challenged to break the cycle and to do what is best for their future kids…Thanks for volunteering to serve if/when it happens.  Jackie

  3. Great post, Jackie.  As always, thanks for sharing.  I'm with you…we all need to do whatever we can to break the cycle.

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