Boys Adrift

The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men

This book began with my clinical experience as a family physician in Montgomery County Maryland. Beginning in the late 1990’s, I encountered many families  where the daughter was working hard to earn good grades, while the son was a goofball who was more interested in getting to the next level in his video game. My first reaction was: What is wrong with suburban Maryland? – because this experience was so different from what I had seen as a high school student in northeastern Ohio in the late 1970s. But as I reached out to friends and colleagues across the United States, I learned that this phenomenon of unmotivated boys was not confined to suburban Maryland. I have found that it is widespread.

So I set out to try to figure out what happened between the 1970s and the 1990s, and what is happening today. The five factors which I presented in the final book were not the factors I thought would be important when I set out to write the book. But in doing the research, my understanding of these issues changed profoundly. My perspective and conclusions on these issues are quite different from most other writers who have addressed the “boys’ issue.”

Ten years later, the publishers asked me to write an updated second edition. If in 2006 I was writing a prophecy, the prophecy has now – unfortunately – been fulfilled. The gender gap in achievement is now robust, not primarily because girls are doing better, but because boys are doing worse. But the emphasis of the book remains on what parents can do to make a difference, to improve the odds for their sons. I hope you will take a look.


Chapter 1: The Riddle

Chapter 2: The First Factor: changes at school

Chapter 3: The Second Factor: video games

Chapter 4: The Third Factor: stimulant medications for ADHD

Chapter 5: The Fourth Factor: endocrine disruptors

Chapter 6: End Result: Failure to Launch

Chapter 7: The Fifth Factor: the revenge of the forsaken gods

Chapter 8: Detox

  • “Boys Adrift is a must-read for any parent of boys. This is real science, and Dr. Sax thoroughly uncovers the important health issues that parents of boys need to be tuned into.”

    — Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show

  • “Excellent and informative references and information are provided . . . Powerfully and persuasively presented.”

    — The Journal of the American Medical Association (view source)

  • “Startling . . . like a brick thrown through your window.”

    CBC (view article)