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

 
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Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, American boys are, on average, less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. The gender gap in college attendance and graduation rates has widened dramatically. While Emily is working hard at school and getting As, her brother Justin is goofing off. Hes more concerned about getting to the next level in his videogame than about finishing his homework. Now, Dr. Leonard Sax delves into the scientific literature and draws on more than twenty years of clinical experience to explain why boys and young men are failing in school and disengaged at home. He shows how social, cultural, and biological factors have created an environment that is literally toxic to boys. He also presents practical solutions, sharing strategies which educators have found effective in re-engaging these boys at school, as well as handy tips for parents about everything from homework, to videogames, to medication.

Customer Reviews:

  • Provocative
    Leonard Sax pronounces modern boys as in a state of shambles, and then sets out to tell us why. He posits intriguing theories, several of which have some empirical support:

    First, schools have shifted to an overemphasis on academics for children as young as five, before many boys in particular are developmentally ready to read and write.

    Second, video games promote a false sense of power while further disengaging boys from the real world.

    Third, ADHD medications are "steamrolling" through American boys, potentially harming young brains and producing negative personality changes.

    And fourth, environmental contaminants - in particular synthetic estrogenics from plastic water bottles - may be delaying and disrupting boys' pubertal development and contributing to ADHD, obesity, and other problems.

    Whenever someone claims to have discovered a "growing epidemic," my alarm bells go off. In this case, Sax is so focused on proving his pet theories that he shamelessly distorts information and misses the larger picture. For example, he makes the alarmist claim that there is "a rise in violent crime" by young men. To those who don't know better, this might sound plausible. But Sax is citing a one-year spike (2006) in an otherwise-dramatic DROP in violent crime and juvenile crime in recent decades (per official U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics). As another example, he defends football culture by pointing out that the school shooters were not football players. That's a classic straw-man argument. While the shooters themselves were not football players, many of the school shooters were targeted and victimized by the dominant jocks on their school campuses (see the Secret Service study and the book Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings, which I review). School shootings are typically committed by alienated and disenfranchised young men, whereas football culture has been linked to other forms of primarily group violence, including hazings, gay-bashings, and group rape. I was able to catch these distortions because those two topics happen to be within my areas of professional expertise. When I see that type of inaccurate and alarmist approach, I suspect that other information is also being distorted.

    Overall, Sax places a lot of blame on individual young men (calling them lazy and parasitic) without adequately addressing changes in society that have contributed to their problems.

    He also generalizes from his experiences with a mainly upper-class and white population. He discounts and ignores racial oppression (for example condemning music stars Akon and 50 Cent with same brush as "convicted felons") and the vast digital divide separating those who use computers (and play video games) from those who do not. He sings the same old lament about a supposed lack of positive male role models, despite scant research evidence that this is a major factor in the problems of modern American boys. (See Pollack's Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood and Garbarino's Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them for deeper analyses of these topics.)

    In summary, although Sax makes some interesting points about the problems faced by boys in contemporary American culture, his alarmist rhetoric, distortions, and broad-brush generalizations detract from his credibility.
    ...more info
  • The Scariest Book I've Ever Read
    Make no mistake about it: This book outlines one of the main ways our society has entered its decay phase: Boys are losing their place in society. It is happening for a huge array of reasons, which are clearly and at reasonable length addressed in the book, including feminization of education, video games, ADHD medication, the breakdown of the family and lack of male role models in boys' lives.

    Boys are falling further behind in school and graduating at lower rates, especially compared to girls. Men of prime working age are leaving the labor force. Employers and trainers find US-born boys lethargic and without any work ethic and frequently look to immigrants to do (even well-paying) traditional male work. Boys are losing their interest in work, in socializing, in sex, in society more broadly.

    The pervasiveness of theses problems is truly frightening. What can we do about it? We can work on a local level by both helping put our kids in the best possible home environment. And we can work in our communities--especially by trying to work with schools or by finding single-sex schools or classrooms--to provide education appropriate to boys' development.

    I'll ask my wife to read it and then ask her what she thinks about our 8 and 12 year old sons' reading it. The only thing more frightening than the overall societal message of the book is its message for my own boys....more info
  • Excellent
    This is an excellent book. It has a lot of helpful information that was pertinent to my situation....more info
  • Good but incomplete
    I wanted it to love this book. I have been aware for longtime of the epidemic of apathy that is prevalent between American boys and young men. I have read this book and, although it is insightful and a much needed contribution to the topic, I think it forgets the most important reason

    I don't want to dispute the five reasons the author gives, which are true in my opinion. But the author forgets the most important reason why American young men are unmotivated and this is the radical change the dating world has experienced the last decades.

    Yesteryear American young men were motivated to work hard because this was the only way to get a bride and, for extension, a family. In a society where family was the most important thing, boys knew that their efforts would be rewarded with a family.

    Not anymore. To begin with, longer studies and better contraceptives have made people marry later so young men see the marriage as something which is in the far future. Young men have sex before commitment, so they are not pressured to commit if they can have sex and company without commitment.

    In addition, women have entered the workplace so men are not pressured to become a provider, which has been their role historically. Divorce is rampant so the ideal of a family has disappeared. Furthermore, hardworking men are deemed to be boring and unexciting. If you go to any college, you will see that the most hardworking men are the ones who get the less dates. Why bother then, when with some attitude and some good abs you can do better than by working?

    Why should young men try to work hard? Every work is done because you want to get something. If work and rewards are disconnected, there is no reason to work. This is the elephant in the room that the author ignores....more info
  • Enlightening
    I'm so glad I bought this book after I heard Dr. Sax speak on NPR. He touched on a subject that I've been wondering about for years, mainly why some children are more motivated than others. Is it nature or nurture? (he blames the child's environment) After reading his thoughts, I agree with him. He has some excellent points. (He cites five main reasons). I can't speak for others, but I can personally relate to his examples. I just wish he had more solutions. And I still wonder if some boys are just born that way....more info
  • Understand in order to help
    We have two grandsons, ages 10 and 11. They spend a full day with us every weekend (Saturday noon to Sunday afternoon). We have a great relationship, and I want to have a positive effect on them. This book has helped me identify and understand some of the factors that are having a negative impact on them and has helped me be more focused as I interact with them. I highly recommend it....more info
  • Fabulous! Well written.
    The book was fabulous! Well written and supported by research, not another opinion book, very logically persuasive. His supported ideas regarding the reasons our young boys are becoming unsuccessful, unmotivated, and underachieved are quite correct! We discussed these matters in book group and were greatly motivated to make changes within our own families which Dr. Sax suggested....more info
  • Amazing...
    This book needs to be read by everyone

    MARRIED - Read it to get a heads up on what your boys may have to face in academics and in his professional life. You will definitely be able to give them an environment to thrive.

    SINGLE MALES- Read it to understand some characteristic about yourself. There are somethings that we do, that we can't explain. There are some things we feel that we could never make sense of, like lack of motivation.

    SINGLE FEMALES- Read it to understand what drives males. This book will help dissolve the myth that the problem is with boys entirely. How does their environment, medication and lack of role models play in their lives.

    This book will really open your eyes to some recent (30 years)problems. Boys aren't any different, but society is VERY different. You would think a book like this dumps on society, but it doesn't. It respects the changes, but analyses some aspects of the old society that we threw away in haste or ignorance. If you pick this book up, pick it up...
    1. With out the preconceived notion that the book is chauvanistic propaganda.
    2. With the understanding that boys and girls are different bologically. Not better, just different. It's o.k. to be different.
    ...more info
  • Confirms common sense
    I remember begging my parents for an Atari game system and their instinct was that video games would rot my brain. That was Pac-Man and Frogger. Now that I'm a dad I worry about the affect of games on my boy as I see teens & 20-somethings wasting away in front of video games. The Author does a fine job of putting science to what most of us instinctively fear about video games, over-prescribed drugs and other harms for boys. ...more info
  • Great Book!
    Started reading and could not put this book down. Very well written. This book changed how I look at the environment of my children forever....more info
  • Excellent Resource
    Boys Adrift is a great resource for any parent or teacher looking for a way to help boys become succesful in an academic setting....more info
  • An important statement about growing up male in our society
    The recent recognition of the disparity between the development of boys and girls in American society is long overdue. The fact is, this trend has been developing for the better part of a generation, and it's time that we take action as parents and teachers to correct the problems plaguing our young men.

    Much is made of boys being more aggressive in demanding attention. This is a false notion, because much of the attention that boys receive is in the form of punishment and correction of unacceptable behavior. Girls are receiving different--and qualitatively better--attention and encouragement than boys. The positive attention that boys do receive is less serious and more condescending than that given to girls. Boys have been much maligned for acting the part of the 'mook,' but honestly, in many cases they are merely fitting into a stereotype that their parents and teachers constantly reinforce. These boys aren't encouraged to get serious or given the proper guidance to do so. Rather, they are often labeled as slacker goofballs who are best humored and laughed at when they behave, well, like young boys.

    Girls, by contrast, are treated almost like young adults from a very early age. Even when 13 and 14 year old girls start affecting somewhat laughable poses as young adults (while wearing their Miley Cyrus lip gloss) their parents tend to treat them more seriously than they do their boys. The silly things that girls do and say are given more credence almost by default, to some extent because parents live in fear of alienating their daughters or sending them into a self-imposed solitary confinement in their rooms. Girls' self-esteem is protected and nurtured, while boys are expected to be self-possessed before they even learn what that means.

    At the end of the day, 13 year old boys who express ideas beyond their years are more often patronized than girls who do the same. This is reinforced by parents' perceptions that their daughters really are more mature, and thus are deserving of greater deference. The guidance and attention boys receive may be greater in volume, but it is far inferior to what girls receive in quality. Far too many parents work to quash ambition in their boys unwittingly, by carrying around the false belief that any signs of independent thought in boys are actually signs of filial rebellion.

    Dr. Sax illuminates this trend with insight and concision in Boys Adrift. He even makes a compelling argument about environmental pollution affecting the development of young men. In all, his assertions are based solidly in fact and are devoid of the sensationalism that has tarnished other works on this subject. And most importantly, he makes a clear connection between that solitary 11 year-old playing video games in the family den today and the solitary 24 year-old who will be playing video games in the same family den in the future as an unambitious, derailed young adult. These are very powerful ideas for parents of young boys to consider....more info
  • A MUST READ!
    If you are the parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, friend of a young man, this book is a MUST READ! I am the parent of two young boys as well as an educator and have found this resource to be invaluable. This is easy to read yet based on solid research. This is a MUST HAVE resource!!!...more info
  • Extremely informative!
    I originally bought this book for my sister who was having difficulty motivating my nephew, an extremely bright young man. She tends to be very skeptical but gave this read a big thumbs up. I'm looking forward to reading it myself and have already seen some positive changes in my nephew. It also helps to know that others share in this same growing phenomenon....more info
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
    This book is essential for anyone who is a parent,guardian, or teacher to a boy. Dr. Leonard Sax's text is clearly written and full of citations and referrences to real research. It is very helpful to read Dr. Sax's first book "Why Gender Matters" first. ...more info
  • Boys to Men - how do we help them launch?
    This book had so much useful information, I can't possibly write about it all here. So in three words.....READ THIS BOOK. I mean......everyone. Whether you're a parent, teacher, coach, girlfriend, lunchlady, employer....anyone who knows a boy or man (or even manboy) in their life should check this out. Dr. Sax is not just some fly-by-night, so-called expert - he has been studying this for some time (plus he's a pediatrician) and cites different studies that he has come across that back up his findings. Don't expect to find an easy answer here, but rather 5 factors that may explain why an alarmingly high number of young men are unmotivated and refusing to "grow up" and get a job. The 5 factors are: Changes at School, Video Games, Medications for ADHD, Endocrine Disruptors (not sure how I feel about that one), and the Revenge of the Forsaken Gods. Of course, the first three I read about with GREAT interest since I was an elementary teacher. I especially liked that Dr. Sax was open to other opinions, such as the evolving independent woman. What motivation is there for a man, when a woman doesn't need anyone to take care of her anymore? (I'm sure I'm gonna hear some feedback about this, but bring it on)
    All in all, this is a very engrossing book, filled with some pretty brutal facts (don't you just love oxymorons?) Some of the information you will agree with, and some you won't. I truly hope that school officials out there will at least read about Factor One and do something about the way we teach Kindergarten today!...more info
  • Author Adrift
    At the time I was reading this book, I had the opportunity to be a chaperone on an eighth and ninth grade field trip for my son's band class. About 75 students, about half boys and half girls, attended this all day field trip for a band convention with middle school students from other area schools. I had just been reading Dr. Sax's idea that boys are smaller and less developed than in the past due to chemicals similar to female hormones in plastics. Dr. Sax says he has actually observed this--that boys are smaller and less developed than they used to be. I hadn't been consciously thinking about this, but as I rode on the bus I started to think how my son had grown in the last several years (he is almost 14) and then how the other kids were growing up. As I looked around the bus, and later the convention, I was struck by difference in the world as described by Dr. Sax and the reality I was seeing around me. Yes, the girls had grown up, but most of the 13, 14, and 15 year old boys I saw were taller, wider in the shoulders, and just bigger all around. They didn't look like little boys (as Dr. Sax says), but rather could be physically described as "young men."

    Dr. Sax includes no statistical information to support his idea that boys are smaller and less developed than before. This is curious because this kind of information is routinely collected and compiled. I looked and quickly found a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, presenting the data on growth patterns from 1962-5 through 2002: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad347.pdf
    For the 12 - 17 male age group the statistics show that weight has increased, but height has as well over this 40 year period. So how can boys be getting smaller as Dr. Sax claims?

    Both my personal experience and the national statistics demonstrate that the author is adrift in his own theory and is coming up with the "facts" he needs to explain his theory rather than observing the true facts and coming up with a theory to explain the facts. If this is the case for plastics, how much can we trust about the author's observations on other points?
    ...more info
  • Informative
    Great read, good research.

    It helps that this researcher's views fit mine. :)

    It seems that our society and educational system wants boys to act like good little girls. This book examines that assertion and will help parents understand their boy's behavior....more info
  • An essential read for parents of boys!
    As a female and an only child, I don't have a great deal of experience decoding the minds of young boys. But, as a homeschooling mom of 2 darling sons, I eagerly read anything that promises to be helpful in this regard. And although my husband remembers his boyhood exceptionally well, raising boys is a very different proposition than it was a mere 35 years ago.

    Dr. Sax (an MD and a PsyD) has written a book that is a fast and easy, but very informative read. I learned a tremendous amount about the obstacles that can stand in the way of today's boy becoming tomorrow's bealthy, content, mature, capable, independent man. Truly fascinating.

    I would have given this book 5 stars, but for the rather weak last chapter that attempts to assign solutions to the problems it presents. The gift of this book, however, is in its thorough discussion of the problems. That part alone is truly a gem among books of this nature.

    Dr. Sax's book gives parents a chance to gain a complete understanding of the issues. With a little independent research and healthy dose of common sense, most parents could easily figure out how to manage these issues themselves....more info
  • Fascinating book
    From the very first page this book is hard to put down. The more I read the more wanted to know. Whether you have children or not , you will enjoy this book. I wish I had read it when I was raising my boy. I could have made my decisions with more confidence....more info
  • Fascinating read; very relevant
    I heard Sax speak at a local school and was very interested in more details in his book. He presents very relevant, thought provoking, and concerning explanations of problems boys are having in school today. He provides both personal stories from his patients and backup studies from which he has reached his conclusions....more info
  • A call to parents, doctors, teachers, coaches
    In "Boys Adrift", Leonard Sax investigates why boys across all socio-economic groups lack motivation and passion for real life activity. He says "they disdain school because they disdain everything." And "even more disturbing is the fact that so many of these boys seem to regard their laid back, couldn't-care-less attitude as being somehow quintessentially male". Sax puts forth five factors creating an epidemic of apathy and under-achievement.

    His first factor is a change in the education paradigm that pushes first grade rigor into kindergarten and then continues to promote Wissenschaft, or book learning, over - and sometimes to the exclusion of - Kenntnis, or learning by experience. Schools have also reduced or eliminated competition, which many boys thrive on and develop their self-esteem. Sax challenges us to reverse these trends.

    The second factor is an addiction of video games that promotes anti-social behavior and supposedly affects the brain similarly to ADHD meds. Video games provide a feeling of power and achievement without any of the effort required in real-life. "Playing games is easy. Studying is hard." We as parents are to blame for this. Sax recommends limiting games to 40 minutes per day, competitive sports, and prioritizing family, friends and real-world activities over video game play.

    The third factor is the routine diagnosis of ADHD and ensuing medications that affect motivation long-term. For doctors and insurers, meds are cheaper than a formal and thorough assessment. And "some parents just don't want to hear that the reason their child is getting B's and C's is because he's just not that smart. They would rather hear that their child has ADHD and needs medication..." and it's easier to think your child has an "oppositional-defiant disorder" rather than he is a "disobedient brat". Sax recommends we challenge the diagnosis and diligently evaluate the cost-benefit of medications.

    Sax cites as the fourth factor chemicals endocrine disrupters in plastics that emasculate the male, delay puberty, and foster obesity. Plastics are the biggest culprit here and he advises the use of glass containers. Apparently Sax originally thought this factor far-fetched but after research and investigation has become convinced.

    Finally, the fifth factor is how society's minimization of masculinity and the passage to manhood has profoundly and negatively influenced the psyche of the young male. By eliminating the traditional rituals of manhood, "have we violated something which the ancients knew intuitively but which we have arrogantly ignored?" And if we do not expose our boys to positive male role models, they will look towards the media or their peers for their inspiration and guidance. The respected fathers and self-sacrificing male leaders of yester-year have been replaced with Homer Simpson and misogynistic, hedonistic pop icons.

    Sax's presentation is very effective, and it is very readable at 220 pages. He parades by the reader a litany of case studies, either evidenced through his own experiences as a physician and psychologist or through emails or conversations with parents. He makes frequent references to his book "Why Gender Matters" and studies from various other authors. "Boys Adrift" is a call to fathers, mothers, teachers, coaches, and leaders, reminding us that our sons, students, and players desperately need our attention, consideration, guidance and protection.
    ...more info
  • A Must-Read for all Educators
    I found the material and ideas presented in Leonard Sax's book very thought provoking and insightful. So much about boys has been puzzling me for years now. This book provides many answers. It is also asking parents and educators to wake up and see the crisis unfolding in our culture. Boys need us to be proactive. The section on video games is especially compelling.
    Barbara DuRocher, Educator, Four Winds Waldorf School, Warrenville, IL...more info
  • Boys adrift
    Excellent book and a highly recommended read for parents concerned about the lack of motivaton in young boys. Video games, plastic bottles, ADHD medications and lack of adult role models are all culprits. Amazon was outstanding the book arrived in two days....more info
  • Completely New Ideas
    The idea that boys are in trouble was a completely new idea to me. I have always heard about girls needing help with self-esteem and acedemics (like science & math). But boys in trouble . . . nope, never heard of it. My sister recommended this book because I have a young son and it was an EYE OPENER!

    MUST READ - for partents of boys and girls. Very, very easy read and it will change how you look at our children and gender forever....more info

 

 
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