Boys Adrift

In Boys adrift: five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men, the author attempts to answer the question, “what is going on with American boys?”  He begins by defining the problem as an “epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.”  After defining the problem he clearly outlines the five factors that he believes to be driving it.

1.  Changes in school.  Sax argues that the acceleration of kindergarten curriculum, the shift from experiential learning to book learning, and the absence of competition in the classroom make coed public schools an unfriendly environment for many boys.

2.  Video games.  He sights the feeling of control over their environment, decreased risk in social interaction, and a lack of opportunity for “real world” experiences as reasons why video games lead to decreased motivation in boys.  He offers advice on a balanced approach to video games that parents can implement in their homes.

3.  Medications for ADHD.  Sax described a study in which, “the stimulant medications appear to exert their harmful effects by damaging an area in the developing brain called the nucleus accumbens”.  The point of this chapter is summarized with this quote, “boys are being put on these medications to fit the boy to the school.  I’ve come to believe that we should not medicate boys so they fit the school; we should change the school to fit the boy.”

4.  Endocrine disruptors.  Dr. Sax provides an in depth discussion of how chemicals found in plastic bottles, pacifiers, toys and many other products seem to be causing a, “slowing and or warping of boys’ sexual development.”  This topic has garnered many headlines lately and this chapter is helpful in understanding the concerns and what precautions parents can take.

5.  The lack of positive male role models.  Behavior is not hardwired. It has to be taught. Sax explains how in many cultures men “take great care in managing this transition to adulthood.”  He also describes how American culture neglects this transition and has even derided the image of manhood.  He offers ways in which single moms, parenting teams, and communities can surround their boys with positive images of manhood.