Boys Adrift

The factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men

We begin by considering the evidence for a growing gender gap in academic achievement. From kindergarten through college, boys are now doing less well in most school subjects compared with their sisters. That gender gap is growing not primarily because girls are doing better, but because boys are doing worse. As we will see, that’s true for Black, White, and Latino boys (it is somewhat less true for Asian boys); it’s true for affluent, middle-income, and low-income boys; it’s true for boys living in the city, in the suburbs, and in rural areas. It’s a robust finding.

Being a gentleman and a scholar is no longer cool. For many Black, White and Latino boys today, academic excellence is seen as unmasculine (for more on this point see my book Boys Adrift, especially chapters 2 and 7).

We then consider the evidence which points to five separate factors driving these changes:

  1. Changes in education over the past 30 years
  2. Video games
  3. Stimulant medications such as Adderall, Concerta, Metadate, and Vyvanse
  4. Endocrine disruptors such as BPA and DEHP
  5. “The revenge of the forsaken gods”(Depending on the time available, we may not be able to address all of the factors)

The focus of the presentation is on what parents need to know in order to help their son to become a confident, productive, and self-reliant young man. I share many concrete strategies, alongside stories of parents who have successfully turned their sons around, as well as answers to questions such as:

  • My son isn’t motivated in school. How do I determine whether there is something wrong with my son, something wrong with the school, or some combination of the two?
  • How much time spent playing video games is too much time, and how do we know? Which video games are OK, and which are not, and how do we know?
  • What’s the evidence that medications such as Adderall and Vyvanse damage the motivational center of the brain? What are the alternatives?
  • What’s the evidence that endocrine disruptors are responsible for the drop in male hormone levels among American men? What are the consequences of lower male hormone levels in American teenage boys and young men?
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