NO MORE FINGER POINTING: STUDY ON UNKNOWN SONS SHOWS POSITIVE SHIFT IN ATTITUDES

April 2019

Search academic databases and you will find scores of articles on the effect of absent fathers on adolescent males. The Impact of Father Absence on Academic Social Emotional Functioning (2018), the dissertation by St. Benedict’s Prep’s Dean of Counseling Sinclair Davis, Psy.D., adds a new and important finding to the body of literature.

The topic is an important one. In 2009, researchers reported that 23 million children in the U.S. lived in homes without a biological father. Dr. Davis was a doctoral candidate in psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University and working as a psychologist at St. Benedict’s Steven M. Grossman Counseling Center when he conducted the research study of the impact of Unknown Sons. The counseling group, one of several peer groups offered through the Counseling Center at The Hive, is for students whose relationships with their fathers that are broken or nonexistent. A key finding of the study indicated that Unknown Sons participants experienced a significant shift in locus of control.

Dr. Davis explains locus of control this way. “When you have external control, you believe the world is responsible for what is happening to you,” he said. “When you have internal control, you recognize, ‘I’m the reason this is happening. I play a part in it.’” In pre-test and post-test assessments, his study found an increase in internal locus of control, a positive indication that students have the mindset to take responsibility for their lives and futures.

“That’s huge for these guys to be able to go out in the world and not blame their circumstances on certain things,” said Dr. Davis. “These guys went from playing the victim and blaming the world, to ‘No, I’m the one who dictates what’s going on.’ Going into college or to the workforce, whatever these guys choose to do, there’s no more finger pointing.”

Named the SBP’s Dean of Counseling at the start of the 2018-2019 academic year, Dr. Davis hopes to build on the findings and research. Currently, he oversees a counseling program that provides individual, group and family counseling and serves nearly 200 students each year.