William joined us to share how he has adapted and evolved the Forgiveness Model to focus very specifically on the effect of Absent Fathers on adolescent development and the far-reaching consequences.

This very interesting evening commenced with an analysis of the audience to assess who had been directly affected by an absent father, indirectly affected, lives with someone affected or worked with someone affected.  Very soon, almost every person in the room was standing affirming that the effect of this issue is truly widespread.

Absent fathers cover a myriad of definitions in terms of the impact on development, these include

  • Unknown fathers
  • Fathers who are never seen/visited
  • Fathers who are emotionally absent
  • Fathers who work away, especially for long periods – military, at sea etc

William’s story of his own life has wholly influenced his journey into focussing on absent fathers.  His father was an alcoholic during his formative years and ended his own life when he was around 20 years old.  His personal journey has been quite recent, and layers of healing continue.

His passion for this topic and supporting people to move through the forgiveness model with this focus on absent fathers is a role he relishes.

Risk factors for fatherless children/young people

  • 70% of those incarcerated are fatherless
  • 60% of rapists are fatherless
  • 20 times more likely to go to prison
  • 11 times more likely to show violent behaviour
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of school
  • 80% of Psychiatric inpatients are fatherless
  • 2 times more likely to complete suicide (4 participants in the room, knew of someone who had taken their own life)
  • 9 times more likely to be raped or sexually abused
  • 70% of teen pregnancies are from fatherless homes..
  • 4 times likely to live in poverty
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances

As adults – common themes are

  • Move from job to job
  • Unable to commit to relationships (often why they turn up for therapy)

Gender Differences

Whilst developing both genders of fatherless children develop similarly in some areas, but there are some that are clearly gender specific/more common.


Young girls are likely to be overly masculine, compared to their peers.  They show accelerated development, alongside, accelerated sexual drive and increase in promiscuity.


Boys who lack a male role-model will assume the role of male protector , have a fear of success, show poor psychological adjustment and also show risk-taking behaviour.


Attachment behaviour of other male figures around the fatherless child can significantly mitigate the impact on the child, including

  • Grandfather
  • Uncle
  • Stepdad
  • Tribal/community figures


William spoke of the manner of how the mother spoke of the child’s father and how that too can significantly reduce the risk of negative outcomes.  Shaming, blaming or animosity towards the father has severe consequences for the child.


We were invited to define what forgiveness means in a) our personal lives and b) from a clinical viewpoint.


In working with the Forgiveness model, the premise is one must work on forgiving oneself.  The forgiveness is about the person, and in no-one condones or negates behaviour that is harmful or negative in any way.

It is set up in four stages (Enright and Fitzgibbon model) broken down into 20 smaller steps

  1. Deciphering
  2. Decision
  3. Work Phase
  4. Deepening


Phase 1 allow the client to understand their world, emotions, how they function in the world, working for eg defence mechanisms, toxic shame and their altered worldview


Phase 2 sees the client addressing how living with unforgiveness affects their life.   The concept of forgiveness is introduced and clarity on how that may positively offer change in their life.  Towards the end of phase 2, the clients accept the need to forgive the perpetrator (the absent father).  It is at this point that William introduces the clients to guided meditations to assist in the process.

Phase 3 offers the client a viewpoint from the offender’s side, in the aim to reach a compassionate understanding of the events.  This leads to the client having the ability to break the intergenerational cycles of behaviour and consciously respond in a new way to life’s challenges.

Phase 4 offers a deeper meaning and understanding of the process.  An examination of whether the client themselves may need to be forgiven.  Learning to establish trust and develop intimacy, allows the client to move forward in a new phase, integrating their learnings.


There is much more learning of this Forgiveness Model to know and a depth of application for dealing with the effects of absent fathers.

Those attending the evening would have liked more time to explore the structure and depth of the model itself.

Thank you for an insightful evening.

Sinead Mitchell (HACP Committee)