Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Gender Matters

Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

****Interesting findings on the differences in the male and female brain. 

What parents and teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences?

One:                 Differences
Two:                Female Brains, Male Brains
Three:               Risk
Four:                Aggression
Five:                 School
Six:                   Sex
Seven:              Drugs
Eight:                Discipline
Nine:                Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Sissy, and Tomboy
Ten:                  Beyond Pink and Blue

What I highlighted while I read (just things that interested me, lots of info between all of my highlighting, not a complete comprisal of authors thoughts...don’t judge the contents by my random highlighted topics, read the book to grasp the entirety of its contents and research behind the statements).


Series of Studies done by Professor John Corso at Penn State during the 1950s and 1960s, demonstrating that females hear better than males.

The teacher is absolutely right about Justin showing a deficit of attention.  But his attention deficit is not due to “attention deficit disorder,” it is due to the fact that Justin can barely hear the soft-spoken teacher.  The teacher is talking in a tone of voice that is comfortable to her and to the girls in the class, but some of the boys are practically falling asleep.  In some cases we might be able to fix the problem simply by putting the boy in the front row.

Our Survey basically asked one simple question:  Who first suggests the diagnosis of ADD?  The results:  in the majority of cases the diagnosis of ADD is made by the teacher.  Not by the parents, nor the neighbors, nor the doctor.

There would be nothing wrong with teachers diagnosing their students as long as they had the training..and the resources, and adequate distinguish the boy with ADD from the boy who just doesn’t hear as well as most girls do.

The failure to recognize and respect sex differences in child development has done substantial harm over the past thirty years…such will be my claim throughout this book.

But school, not drugs, is the “new” problem for boys.  While today’s girl is more likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol than her mother was, today’s boy is much more likely to be struggling in school than his father was.  Boys today are increasingly alienated from school.

The average eleventh-grade American boy now writes at the same lever as the average eighty-grade girl.


The left hemisphere of a man’s brain is very important for language, while the right hemisphere of a man’s brain is not.

Women are different.  Women use both hemispheres of their brain fro language.

Girl babies who received music therapy left the hospital nine and a half days earlier on average than girl babies who did not.  But boy babies who received music therapy did not leave the hospital any earlier than boys who did not.  Music therapy was very beneficial for the girls, but not at all beneficial for the boys.

Premature girl babies who were hummed to left the hospital twelve days earlier on average than girl babies who were not.  But premature boy babies who were hummed to did not leave the hospital any earlier than boy babies who weren’t. 

The most plausible explanation is that boy babies don’t hear the music as well, or in the same way that girl babies do.

Found that the average girl baby had an acoustic brain response about 80 percent greater than the response of the average baby boy.

Girls hearing was substantially more sensitive than the boys’ especially in the 1,000-4,000-HZ range, which is so important for speech discrimination.

The boy who is tap-tap-tapping his fingers on the desk might not be bothering the other boys, but he is bothering the girls—as well as the) female) teacher.

Most girls and women interpret facial expressions better than most boys and men can.

The boy babies were much more interested I n the mobile than in the young woman’s face.  The girl babies were more likely to look at the face.

The results of the experiment suggest that girls are born prewired to be interested in faces while boys are prewired to be more interested in moving objects.

The male Retina is substantially thicker than the female retina.

You will find that girls will prefer colors like red, orange, green, and beige, because those are the colors that P cells are prewired to be most sensitive to.  Boys prefer to simulate motion in their pictures.  Boys prefer colors such as black, gray, silver, and blue because that is the way the M cells are wired.

Girls typically draw pictures of people or pets or flowers or trees, arranged more or less symmetrically, facing the viewer.  Girls usually use ten or more colors in their pictures.

Boys typically draw action: a rocket hitting its target, an alien about to eat somebody, a car about to hit another care.  Boys typically use at most six colors.

Girls draw nouns, boys draw verbs.

Fiver year olds like Anita and Matthew quickly figure out that Anita is doing it “right” (teacher likes it) and Matthew is doing it “wrong”.  Matthew will soon discover that he is not very good at trying to copy Anita, that is, trying to draw pictures of people, using lots of colors.  Matthew will quickly decide that he is no good at art.  Only five years old, Matthew has decided that “art is for girls”.

Another difference in how girls’ band boys’ brains work:  geometry and navigation.

Women typically navigate using landmarks that can be seen or heard or smelled.  Men are more likely to use absolute directions such as north and south or absolute distance such as miles or city blocks.

Boys and girls playing…Gender differences in play behavior are present in just about every mammal that has been studied.

Today we know that innate differences between girls and boys are profound.  Of course, not all girls are alike and not all boys are alike.  But girls and boys do differ from one another in systematic ways that should be understood and made use of, not covered up or ignored.

Feelings…Using an MRI to examine how emotion is processed in the brains of children from the ages of seven through seventeen.  In young children, these researchers found that negative emotional activity in response to unpleasant or disturbing visual images seems to be localized in phylogenetically primitive areas deep in the brain, specifically in the amygdale.

That may be one reason why it doesn’t make much sense to ask a seven year old to tell you why she is feeling sad or distressed.  The part of the brain that does that talking, up in the cerebral cortex, has few direct  connections to the part of the brain where the emotion is occurring, down in the amygdale.

In adolescence, a larger fraction of the brain activity associated with negative emotion moves up to the cerebral cortex.   That is the same division of the brain associated with our higher cognitive functions…reflections, reasoning, language, and the like.  So, the seventeen year old is able to explain why she is feeling sad in great detail and without much difficulty.

But that change occurs only in girls.  In boys the locus of brain activity associated with negative emotion remains stuck in the amygdale.  In boys there is no change associated with maturation.  Asking a seventeen year old boy to talk about why he is feeling glum may be about as productive as asking a six year old boy the same question.

Emotions…both positive and negative are processed differently in girls’ brains than in boys’.

Trying to understand a child without understanding the role of gender in child development is like trying to understand a child’s behavior without knowing the child’s age.


When other young men are watching, most young men will demonstrate what psychologists call a “risky Shift”.  If the man tossed the rings from two feet when he was alone, he will back up to five feet when other men are in the room.  If he tossed the rings from five feet when he was alone. he will back up to ten feet when other men are watching…even if he has never met the men before and never expects to see them again.

Many boys enjoy taking risks.  And most boys are impressed by other boys who take risks.  Girls may be willing to take risks, but they are less likely to see out risky situations.

Girls and boys assess risk differently, and they differ in their likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.  As soon as kids are old enough to toddle across the floor, boys are significantly more likely to do something dangerous; put their fingers I n a socket, try to stand on a basketball, jump off a chair onto the floor.  And when parents try to stop their child from doing something risky, boys are less likely to comply.

Psychologist Barbara Morrongiello interviewed children ages six through ten who had been injured or who had been in “close calls”.  She found that compared to the girls, the boys:
…Were more likely to attribute their injuries erroneously to “bad luck” rather than to any lack of skill or foresight on their part;
            …Were less likely to tell their parents about the injury
            ….Were more likely to be around other boys at the time the injury occurred

A boy is much more likely to do something dangerous or stupid when he is in a group of boys than when he is by himself.

Why? Risky and dangerous activities trigger a “fight or flight” response that gives a tingle, a charge, an excitement that many boys find irritable.

One reason many boys engage in physically dangerous activities may be that the danger itself gives the activity a pleasant tingle.  A mother who warns her son, don’t ride your bike off the boardwalk, you might get hurt, has missed the point.  Her son knows it is dangerous.  He is riding his bike off the path because it is dangerous.

But there is another basic reason why boys are more likely to engage in physically risky activities.  Boys systematically over estimate their own ability, while girls are more likely to under estimate their abilities.
If you have a son, it is obvious that you need to understand his motivations, so you will be able to keep him from riding his bike off a cliff.  While, most young girls need some encouragement to take risks, the right kind of risks, and to raise their estimation of their own abilities.

Moral of the story: if you have had plenty of experiences exploring new situations, facing your fears and mastering them, then you can face new challenges and conquer them as well.  If you don’t have that experience of taking a risk and succeeding, then you won’t be able to summon up your strength when it really counts.

Child psychologist Wendy Mogel has written a charming book called “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.”  Without mentioning the theory of learned help0lessness, she points out that shielding children from injury makes them more risk averse.  And, letting them explore their world…at the cost of a few scrapes and cuts…builds their character and gives them self-confidence, resilience, and self-reliance.

But if your kid doesn’t fit gender-typical roles, then you need to modify your parenting accordingly.  The girl on the ATV could use some of the “hazard precautions” we will describe momentarily.  The boy who doesn’t want to finger-paint could use some”dare training.”

What about the boy who gets a thrill out of taking risks?  There are at least three basic principles involved in decreasing the risk of your child experiencing a severe injury. 

The first principle is: remember the “risky shift.” Boys in groups do stupid things.  Your boy wants a thrill.  Great. Take the whole family skiing or snowboarding.

The second principle is: supervised is better than unsupervised.

The third principle is: assert your authority.


Our greatest moment comes when we find the courage to rechristen our “evil” as the best within us, the same hidden intensity and impulsiveness that had been liabilities for Jeffrey at school became advantages when he was hunting in the wilds of Zimbabwe.  The experience of feeling himself to be a genuinely gifted and talented hunter changed his whole outlook on life.  After nailing a grouse at thirty yards when nobody thought he could do it, schoolwork did not seem so hopelessly difficulty anymore.

Here is the part that many women have real problems with; if Jeffrey had just hit a target on a wall, it would not have had the same effect.  Hitting a target on a wall would not have changed his life.  The fact that he had killed a living thing was crucial.

Psychologist Janet Lever spent a whole year at elementary school playgrounds, watching girls and boys play.  Boys fight a lot, she noticed: about twenty times as often as girls do.  To her surprise, though, she found that boys who fight each other usually end up being better friends after the fight. They are more likely to play together in the days after the fight than they were in the days before.

Girls seldom fight, but when they do…often with words rather than fists…the bad feelings last.

Among boys, preference for violent stories is not an indicator of underlying psychiatric problems.  A preference for violent stories seems to be normal for five to seven year old boys, while the same preference in five to seven year old girls suggest a psychiatric disorder.

Boys who act aggressively usually raise their standing in the eyes of other boys, as long as their action is provoked, that is, as long as it is not bullying.

If young male primates are deprived of the opportunity to fight with other males, those males grow up to be more violent as adults, not less.  They have never learned how to get along with other males in a playful, aggressive way.

Aggression has a different meaning for girls than it has for boys.  For many boys, aggressive sports—such as football, boxing, wrestling—may not only be fun, they may actually form the basis for a lasting friendship.  Aggression between girls does not build friendships, it destroys them.  So it is hard for girls to imagine any positive consequences from aggressive play.

Putting girls together with boys creates special risks.  Boys often employ aggressive behaviors playfully, as a way of making friends (pulling pony tails).

Many school districts have banned kids from playing dodge ball on school playgrounds in the belief that dodge ball encourages violent behavior.

Banning even games like tag “body contact is inappropriate for recess activities”….Other schools threaten expulsion for kids who throw snowballs.

There is no evidence that preventing kids from acting out their aggression in healthy ways will diminish or eliminate their aggressive impulses.  Instead, prohibiting these activities may actually increase the likelihood that the suppressed aggression will manifest itself in less healthy ways. 

Three-quarters of all murders are committed not by overtly aggressive people, but by quite, seemingly well behaved men who have never found a safe or appropriate outlet for their aggression.

Females are wired to respond to stress in a different way than males are.  When most young boys are exposed to the threat and confrontation, their sense sharpens and they feel an exiting tingle. When most young girls are exposed to threat and confrontation, they feel dizzy and yucky.

The result of the shift away from competitive sports to aerobics is that boys who are not athletic enough to make the team now have no socially acceptable outlet for their aggressive impulses…. Thus enters….Video Games

Don’t buy any video games that employ what I call a “moral inversion”…where good is bad and bad is good. I.e. Grand Theft Auto, stealing from and killing policemen, virtual sex with prostitutes….etc.

Better yet, get your son away from video games altogether and toward real life aggressive games.

Violence in girl—Simmons uses the phrase “alternative aggression” to describe these ongoing wars among adolescent girls.  A girl who victimizes other girls in this manner is often the most socially skilled and may even be one of the most popular girls—just the opposite of the typical boy bully.

Whereas boys typically bully kids they barely know, girls almost always bully girls within their social group.  These girls are intimate enemies.  They know each other.  They know where it hurts most.

Take note: The experience of being shunned by other girls can precipitate full blown clinical depression, with the associated risk of suicide.

Girls are at greater risk of being harmed by a negative assessment from a teacher: Girls generalize the meaning of their failures because they interpret them as indicating that they have disappointed adults, and thus they are of little worth.  Boys, in contract, appear to see their failures as relevant only to the specific subject area in which they have failed; this may be due to their relative lack of concern with pleasing adults.

Friendships between girls are different from friendships between boys.  Girl’s friendships are about being together, spending time together, talking together, and going places together.  Friendships between boys on the other hand usually develop out of a shared interest in a game or an activity.

Girl friendships are face-to-face; Boy friendships are shoulder-to-shoulder.

Self-disclosure is the most precious badge of friendship between females.  Boys are different.  Most boys don’t really want to hear each other’s innermost secrets.  With boys the focus is on the activity, not on the conversation.

When girls are under stress, they want to be with their friends more.  When boys are under stress, they usually just want to be left alone.

Girl friendships work best when the friendship is between equals.  Boys on the other hand are comfortable in an unequal relationship, even if they are the lesser party.

Teachers….If you are working with a girl, smile and look her in the eye when you are helping her with a subject.  That gives her nonverbal reassurance that you like her and you’re her friend.  IF you are working with a boy, sit down next to him and spread out the materials in front of you, so you are both looking at the materials, shoulder – to- shoulder.  Don’t hold an eye-to-eye stare with a boy unless you are trying to discipline him or reprimand him.

Small group learning is a good teaching strategy for girls, but seldom for boys.

Rule of thumb…Moderate stress improves boys’ performance on tests…the boys do better than you might expect,whereas the same stress degrades young girls’ performance on tests.

But there is one thing most five year old boys are very good at: figuring out that they have been put in the “dumb group” And they don’t like it.

Those boys develop negative feelings toward school that are likely to persist and color the child’s entire academic career.  Boys who fail to do well in kindergarten develop “negative perceptions of competence,” and those negative attitudes are “ difficulty to reverse as they progress through school.

There is a big difference between delaying a child’s entry to kindergarten vs his repeating first grade a year later.

The failure of schools to recognize differences in how girls and boys learn affects each sex at different ages.  Boys are harmed most in kindergarten and the early elementary years.

For girls, the negative effects of gender blind education become manifest in the middle school and high school years.

Sex differences in learning are not confined to differences in hearing, or differences in responses to confrontation, or differences in developmental timetables.  There are consistent and significant brain based sex differences in how girls and boys learn geometry and how they understand literature.

Most boys prefer to read about strong male characters who take dramatic action to change their world.

Get every child excited about learning.  Once kids have discovered for themselves that reading can be fun and exciting, then you can worry about broadening their taste in literature.

Paradoxically, girls are more likely to be excessively critical in evaluating their own academic performance.  Conversely, boys tend to have unrealistically high estimates of their own academic abilities and accomplishments.

You need to encourage girls and build them up.  Boys on the other hand more often need a reality check.

Almost every child is a gifted child, I believe.  The trick is to discover where your child’s talents lie.


Hooking up, Choosing Virginity?, Oxytocin, Testosterone, and Rape, The male Paradigm, Clueless, Are Boys Human?,

How does impersonal sex harm boys?  I see plenty of harm.  By the time a heterosexual young man is in his early twenties, he will rely on his girlfriend or his wife to be his primary emotional caregiver.  Straight men who don’t have a wife or girlfriend are substantially more likely to become seriously depressed, commit suicide, or die from illness.

Even though many of us think of teenage romance as something that interests girls more than it interests boys, it is the boys, ultimately, who will have greater need for an intimate and durable romantic relationship in their lives.

We all want our children to grow up to enjoy a loving, mutually supportive and lasting relationship.  Many parents imagine, reasonably enough, that romantic relationships in adolescence provide good “practice” for more serious relationships in adult hood.  You can’t run before you walk.  Practice makes perfect.

Psychologists who study romantic relationships in adolescence are coming to a different conclusion.  Practice makes perfect ONLY if you are practicing the right task.

A boy may get in the habit of regarding his girlfriend as a source of sexual gratification without really connecting with her as a human being.  A girl may bet in the habit of seeing her romantic partner as a “trophy boyfriend” without any idea of how to integrate him into her life.  And both of them may get in the habit of dumping their current partner whenever a better-looking or more popular one becomes available.
Furman and Wehner have found, “ these individuals may become more skillful, but more skillful in developing the relationships they have come to expect.  By the time they reach adulthood and it is time to build a marriage that will last a life time , they  have accumulated all sorts of bad habits that they need to break.  They might be better off had they never had those teen relationships.

Researchers have found that teens typically engage in sex in one of two opportunistic settings.  The most common venue for teens to have sex is in their own home or their partner’s home, right after school, before parents come home.


Girls and boys turn to drugs for different reasons.  Girls use stimulant medications such as Dexedrine far more than boys do, for example, as a way to lose weight.  Girls use drugs like Xanax and Vicodin to relieve stress, to calm down, and because their friends are doing it.

Boys get involved with drugs for different reasons.  Most boys who abuse drugs are looking for a thrill.  They want the excitement of ding something dangerous.

Boys are more likely to buy illegal drugs from strangers while girls buy most of their drugs from people they know.

Risk factors;

One risk factor for drug use among girls, is namely, low self-esteem.  Girls with low self-esteem are at much high risk for using drugs and alcohol.  By the same token, depressed girls are more likely to start using drugs and alcohol.  With boys, there is no strong relationship either way between self-esteem or depression on the one hand and the risk of using drugs, and alcohol on the other. 

Academic stress can also perpetuate a girl’s use of drugs.

Interesting fact about dinner:  The more often teens have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs.

Parents who insist on eating supper together with their kids are more likely to be parents who know what their kids are doing.  Kids who parents are involved in their lives will be kids who are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, compared with kids whose parents don’t bother to make the effort.

If it is an ironclad rule that your kids have to be home for supper, then there is less opportunity for them to be somewhere else.


Norbert Elias has published an important essay on the fundamental ways in which our society changed between 1939 and 1989.

Perhaps the most significant change in our society in those fifty years, was the transfer of authority from parent to child. The result of this loss of parental authority is, status uncertainty, which can also be translated as status insecurity.  Parents no longer know what authority they have over their children.  Another consequence of this relocation of power from parent to child is an “in formalization” of relations between the generations.

The parent-child relationship is not a reciprocal relationship between peers, nor should it be.  You tell your child what she can watch on TV, for example.  She doesn’t have the authority to tell you what you can watch.

Parents seldom feel that they have the authority to tell their child what to do.  Instead, the best parents can do is suggest.

Some parents believe this transfer to be a positive thing.  I don’t agree.  The best evidence suggests that taking authority away from parents and giving it to the children results in:
            More fat kids.
            More teenage sex.
            More teenage criminals

Discipline is only one aspect of parent.  If you don’t have a well rounded relationship with your child. If the only time you interact with your child is to discipline her.. Then no discipline strategy will be effective.
The key to assert your authority not only to discipline your child, but also to introduce your child to new things to do, new hobbies, new adventures.  One of your responsibilities as a parent is to broaden your child’s horizons.

General rule for positive discipline; for girls twelve and under and boys fourteen and under; Don’t ask.  Tell.

Per research and testing:
Boys respond well to strict and authoritarian discipline, which included an occasional spanking.  The stricter the parents’ disciplinary style, the better the boy’s social cognitive skills.

Girls. The “warm and fuzzy” approach promoted social skills whereas strict discipline has a slight negative effect on girls’ social development.

Outline of discipline that works best for boys and girls, at different ages.  pp 186-195

So what happens to modern kids who misbehave…There is growing evidence that these kids are instead being put on calming behavior-modifying drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and Metadate.

I call this process “ the medicalization of misbehavior”


You have to read this chapter as a whole to grasp the concepts and ideas he is expressing.  I could not do it justice with what I have highlighted.

More recent work using more accurate methods has failed to demonstrate any differences in the brain between gay men and straight men.  Specifically in the brain between gay men and straight men.  Specifically with regard to LeVays findings; the brains of gay men are indistinguishable from the brains of straight men, and the brains of both gay men and straight men differ in the same way from the brains of women.

McFadden’s team has repeatedly found that women have significantly better hearing than straight men, and straight men have somewhat better hearing than gay men.

And on the most salient “anatomic measure” …whose penis is bigger…? Gay men are hypermasculine.  That is right: gay men have bigger penises, on average, ,than straight men do.

Ears and Penises aren’t the only areas where gay men appear to be “more masculine” than straight men.  Sexual behavior itself is another area where researchers have used the term “hypermasculine” to describe gay men. 

Lesbian: Born or Made? Twenty years ago many experts believed that female homosexuality derived from experience, whereas male homosexuality was thought to be hardwired and innate.  Boys, it was thought, were born homosexual or heterosexual.  Girls’ sexual orientation was more malleable, they believed.

More recent research , however, suggests that female homosexuality is genetically programmed, at least in part.

Anomalous children:  boys whose behavior and interests are more typical of girls, and girls whose behavior and interests are more typical of boys.

Common descriptions of Anomalous Boys:
            More likely to have allergies, asthmas, or eczema than other boys
            More likely to have a regular resting heart rate” whereas most boys have heart rates with lots of beat to beat variability; the heart speeds up when they breathe in and slows down when they breath out
            More likely to have a narrow face, a facial width to height ratio less than .55
            Unwilling to engage I n rough and tumble play
            Are precocious, particularly with respect to language skills
            Are often loners with few close friends
            May enjoy sports, but typically prefer non contact sports such as tennis, tack, bowling and golf.

Many parents don’t recognize that their anomalous son is heading for a special kind of trouble…until middle school begins… When the tidal wave of puberty hits, the neatly arranged life that seemed so stable and peaceful in elementary school is washed away.  For many of these boys, their closest friends during the elementary school years were girls.  When puberty arrives, the girls leave.  Hanging out with the right kids becomes intensely important in middle school, and the anomalous male is not a cool guy to hang with so: the girls are gone.

Sexton found that these boys become intensely anxious about sex around this time.  Some begin using pornography.  Others become suicidally depressed.  The “geek” becomes a loner, withdrawn and resentful, finding solace in his books and his fantasies.         

Jerome Kagan has presented evidence that parents who intervene early – ideally, before the child is three years old…can pull their  anomalous son out of the tendency to withdrawal and feminization.  Kagan has suggested that parenting style is a critical
factor in determining whether a boy outgrows his fearful, withdrawn tendencies or whether he remains stuck in his fearful, withdrawn tendencies or  whether he remains stuck in that mode.  Protective parents who are “sensitive” to their child’s preferences have the worst outcomes.

So what can you do if your son is an anomalous male and he is five, six, seven, eight years old?  Number one:  adopt and maintain a firm disciplinary style (reread prior chapter regarding discipline) Number two: encourage competitive sports.  Next, you have to take an honest look in the mirror.  If your son is an anomalous male, there is a good chance that you have been overly protective, too careful to shield him from the scrapes and bumps of everyday life.

Problems come from overprotective parents and can best be remedied through association with a normal adult male. Try Boy Scouts, all boys summer camps with lots of camping and hiking and sports; avoid computer science camps, art camps, music camps and the like.

While the anomalous boys were noncompetitive, non-athletic and fearful, the anomalous girls were fearless, independent, and competitive.

Boys with many feminine characteristics tends to be less popular and at higher risk for social maladjustment, especially in middle school and high school.   By contrast, the anomalous girl appears more likely to be more popular and well adjusted than her peers.

The girl who is the captain of the lacrosse team is more likely to be a top student than the girl who plays no sports.  On the other hand, the boy who is at the top of the class academically is less likely to be a good athlete.

Girls who show some male typical characterizes such as willingness to confront others openly…generally do better than average socially.  On the other hand, boys who show female typical characteristics such as reluctance to engage in rough and tumble play are more likely to have more problems socially.

Anomalous girls have an advantage in school and in life.  Anomalous boys have an advantage in school but they pay a steep price for that advantage, and their social horizons are likely to be narrower than those of other boys.


We live in what is…or at first glance appears to be a gender blind society.

To sum up the transformation in North American (and Western European and Australian) society since roughly 1970:

Society has blurred any distinction between female and male in terms of social roles;
The educational establishment has erased any gender distinctions in the curriculum;
Children have assumed more authority for the important decisions in their lives.

What has been the end result of these changes? In the 1970’s theorists were correct in their assumption that girls and boys are cut from the same cloth, then we should expect to find that we now live in an era of unprecedented gender equality, an era in which girls and boys both are free to fulfill their individual potential without regard to gender stereotypes.
That is not what has happened.  On one hand, the range of opportunities available to young women today has expanded dramatically in comparison with previous generations.
But the new is not all good.  Psychologist Jean Twenge carefully examined the records of children from the 1950s to the present.  She found that children today are significantly more anxious and depressed than children were in the 1950s and 1960s.  In fact, the average child today is more anxious than the typical child referred to a psychiatrist in the 1950s.  To put it another way: the average child today would have been considered a “mental case” fifty years ago.

Twenge suggest to main causes for the increased anxiety of today’s children.  The first is the unraveling of the social fabric over the past fifty years.

Children today are less likely to have that kind of extended family in the neighborhood and far more likely to be raised by a single parent.

The second cause is an increased sense of instability and threat in the personal lives of children.  Children feel less sure that the parents they are living with today will be living with them tow or three years down the road.  And children today feel more vulnerable to physical violent…

I would like to suggest a third cause is that children today feel less rooted in their gender than children did in the 1950s.  The neglect of gender in the raising and educating of children has resulted in a loss of direction for the growing child and especially the adolescent.

They are less sure of what it means to be a girl or a boy, what it means to become a women or a man.

Gender-comfortable kids were more self-confident and less anxious than kids who were gender –atypical.

The foundation of every durable human community has always been the molding of the younger generation by the older; and this interaction is facilitated in single-sex contexts.

But we need to recognize that our society lost something in the process of dismantling opportunities for boys to learn from adult men in an all male setting.  We lost something when we eliminated many opportunities for girls to learn from women in all girls setting.

Socialization is the name psychologist give to the process whereby children learn the customs and mores of their society.

The neglect of gender in education and child rearing has done real harm. Restless boys are drugged with Ritalin and Concerta so that they will sit still and be quiet in classes taught by soft spoken women who bore them.  Shy teenage girls are medicated with Paxil with the approval of their anxious, misinformed parents.

Boys are hungry for an answer to the question: What does it mean to be a man?  But the formal structures of our society…schools in particular…no longer offer any answers to that question.  So the market steps into the vacuum.

You and I know that being a man means using your strength in the service of others. 

Girls in generations past worried about their character, today most girls’ first concern is with their appearance.

Here’s the paradox: coed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single sex schools can break down gender stereotypes.

If a girl at a coed school things she is pretty, her self esteem is great.  Conversely, and more darkly; if a girl at a coed school answers no, then her self esteem is low.  It doesn’t matter is she is a straight a student, if her parents have great jobs, is she is an ace soccer players.  If a girl at a coed school things she is ugly, then her self esteem is in the toilet.

For girls at a single sex school, self esteem is a more complex product of school performance, social experience, family income, and other factors.

We all want our children to grow up to be courageous and self confident…attributes that are traditionally considered masculine.  But we also want them to be nurturing, thoughtful, and good listeners…attributes traditionally seen as feminine. 

The best way to raise your son to be a man who is caring and nurturing is to let him first of all be a boy.   Once your son is sure of whom he is, he will be more confident, more able to explore gender atypical ways of learning and listening.

The transition to adulthood…more than in any other realm that is where our society lets kids down.  We offer our children no guidance about what it means to be an adult woman or an adult man.


In the months since Why Gender Matters was originally published, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many teachers who are using the book as a jumping off point for their own investigations into how girls and boys learn.

Questions such as:  Do boys learn better sitting down or standing up?  The basic principle, as presented in Chapter 5, is that the right kind of stress enhances learning in boys but impairs learning in most girls.  Standing up is a mild form of stress.

Three months ago I observed a public elementary school classroom, in Waterloo, Iowa, where teacher Jeff Ferguson was leading a class of first grade boys.  Mr. Ferguson had made sitting optional in his all boy classroom.  One boy was sitting.  The boys next to him was standing.  The next boy was crouching under his desk, and behind him a boy was slowly twirling in circles.  But all those boys were paying close attention to Mr. Ferguson.  And all the boys were loving that class. 

I have seen other elementary school classrooms where teachers waste half the class time trying to get the boys to sit down and be quiet.  In a coed class, the boys have to sit because girls would be distracted by boys crouching or twirling on either side of them.

Teachers at an all boys elementary school in Chicago told me last month that the performance of their boys improved 500% after teachers removed the chairs from the classroom.

According to the NEA study, the gender gap is reading…favoring girls at the expense of boys has grown from a small gap to a yawing chasm.  What was formerly a moderate difference is fast becoming a decided marker of gender identity:  Girls read; boys don’t.

The K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. Data shows that “by the time they go on to high school, boys have lost their interest in reading…Bauerlein and Stotsky see boys as victims of a feminized curriculum that has neglected the natural interests and inclinations of boys in the misguided pursuit of political correctness and diversity.

The NEA survey highlighted one aspect of a much broader phenomenon: boys are disengaging from school.  More boys are dropping out of school, and a smaller proportion of boys are going on to college.  Young men who do attend college are less likely to earn a diploma, and those men who do earn a college diploma are now less likely than women are to go on to graduate school.

Do you see the common element underlying these two stories, the Larry Summers story about the under representation of girls in math and science and the NEA survey  showing that boys no longer like to read?  In both cases, the problem derives in part from a neglect of gender differences.  Thirty years ago, teachers did not hesitate to recommend books on the basis of a student’s gender.  Boys were encouraged to read Robert Louis Stevenson and Ernest Hemingway.  Girls were encouraged to read Jane Austen, Willa Cather, and Carson McCullers.  Today, such gender specific advice is often labeled reactionary and stereotyped, if not downright sexist.  But the neglect of gender differences does not break down gender stereotypes; ironically, neglecting hardwired gender differences more often results in a reinforcement of gender stereotypes.  The end result of thirty years of neglect of gender differences is a generation of boys who hate to read.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boys Adrift

Boys adrift by Leonard Sax. M.D., Ph.D.

The five Factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men
***** A Must Read for fathers, mothers, teachers, and mentors of boys. Keep in mind that no two people/children are alike.  Don’t worry about if your child fits in a suggested box or not.  Read and ask God what he wants you to take notice of. You may not feel you can relate to anything but you WILL meet others who can and are looking for answers/suggestions.

Chapter 1 – The Riddle

Why boys are disengaging from school, from independence, from life.

Chapter 2 – The First Factor: Changes at School

How changes in school have greatly impacted the interest our young boys have in school and their performance in school.

Chapter 3 – The Second Factor: Video Games

How video games serve as an escape from the real world and cause the player to disengage from day to day activities and relationships.  Losing all interest in the real world, preferring the fantasy world to real life.  Losing all drive and ambition.

Chapter 4 – The Third Factor: Medications for ADHD

How and why boys are diagnosed incorrectly as ADHD, placed on Medicines that cause short term and long term harm to their brains and personalities.

Chapter 5 – The Fourth Factor – Endocrine Disruptors

How the introduction of environmental factors has caused the introduction of female hormones into our boys systems and the effects it has on their drive and ambition.

Chapter 6 – End Result: Failure to Launch

Examples and explanations of men who refuse to become independent as adults.

Chapter 7 – The Fifth Factor: The Revenge of the Forsaken Gods

How our culture has failed in providing older adult male role models and communities to guide our young men and how that failure has caused a break down in the transition of going from being a boy to becoming a man.

Chapter 8 – Detox

Summarizing the Five Factors attributing to the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men and steps we can take for each of the factors to try and direct our boys to becoming productive and independent men.

What I highlighted while I read (just things that interested me, lots of info between all of my highlighting, not a complete comprisal of authors thoughts...don’t judge the contents by my random highlighted topics, read the book to grasp the entirety of its contents and research behind the statements).

Chapter 1 – The Riddle

Why boys are disengaging from school, from independence, from life

Dr. Leonard Sax is a family physician, working in the suburbs of Washington, DC for the past 17 years. He as seen more than seven thousand patients, hundreds of families where the girls are the smart, driven ones, while their brothers are laid back and unmotivated.  The opposite pattern with the boy being the intense, successful child while his sister is relaxed and unconcerned about her future is rare.

The problem is boys disengaging from school and the American dream, affecting every variety of community.  The end result is a young man that has no drive, ends up working part time at the mall or Starbucks and living with his parents, or with his girlfriend’s parent and or another relative.  But the young man is not bothered by his situation, his parents are his girlfriend is, but he is oblivious to their concerns.

The boys I am most concerned about don’t disdain school because they have other real-world activities they care more about.  They disdain school because they disdain everything.  Nothing really excites them.

The end result, are frantic parents wondering shy their son can’t, or won’t, get a life.  He is adrift, floating wherever the currents in the sea of his life may carry him, which may be no place at all.

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.  i.e. “Girls care about getting good grades. Geeks care about grades. Normal guys do not care about grades”.  Not caring about anything has be come the mark of true guy-freedom.

Over the past fifty years, college campuses have undergone a sex change: they’ve changed from majority male to majority female. 

Why does on young man succeed, while another young man from the same neighborhood or even the same household drift along, unconcerned?

The five factors identified:

1.         Changes at School

Children in kindergarten used to could actually draw and paint and sing and dance and play… but that is no longer true.  Today most kids don’t draw and paint and sing and dance and play, in kindergarten.  They learn to read and write.

In 2007 team of 12 neuroscientists scan the brains of young children, following them thru the years.  Ages 3 to 27. Most striking findings in the report are the differences in the developmental trajectories of girls compared with boys. 

It now appears that the language areas of the brain in many five year old boys look like the language areas of the brain of the average 3 ½ girl.  It simply is not developmentally appropriate to teach a five year old boy to read and write.

Asking five year old boys to learn to read—when they’d rather be running around or playing games—may be the worst possible introduction to school, at least for some boys.

Waiting until seven years of age to begin the formal reading and writing curriculum of today’s kindergarten might reduce or ameliorate  a significant fraction of the problems we see with boys and school.

The gift of a year is the best gift you can give a child.

The pace of education has accelerated, but boy’s brains don’t grow any faster now than they did thirty years ago.  That is one part of the first factor leading boys to disengage from school.

The first question we will try to answer is why the acceleration of the early elementary curriculum might affect boys differently from the way it affects most girls.  As we have seen, Reason #1 is different regions of the brain develop in a different sequence and tempo in girls compared with boys.  As a result, most five year old girls are better able to ad apt to the academic character of kindergarten than five year old boys are.

Reason #2 has to do directly with the question of motivation, the huge blind spot of contemporary educational psychology.  Girls and boys differ in terms of their desire to please the teacher.  Most girls are at least somewhat motivated to please the teacher.  Many boys don’t share that motivation.

Girls will do homework because the teacher asked them to.  Boys are more likely to do the homework only if it interests them.  If it bores them, or if they think it is stupid, they are more likely to ignore it.  Most boys don’t care much about pleasing the teacher or about  getting straight A’s and boys who do try to please the teacher and who do care about their grades will lower their status in the eyes of the other boys.

Kenntnis (know by experience) vs Wissenschaft (to know about something) Learning

American Schools have shifted from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft learning.   Research demonstrated that children must have a rich, interactive sensory environment—touching, smelling, seeing, hearing the real world—in order for the child’s brain and mind to develop properly.  Without such real world experiences, the Childs development will be impaired.

Only in the past decade have developmental psychologists come to recognize that a curriculum that emphasizes Wissenschaft at the expense of Kenntnis may produce a syndrome analogous to the neglected child.  “ Nature-deficit disorder”

For boys in particular, emphasizing Wissenschaft while ignoring Kenntnis may seriously impair development – not cognitive development but the development of a lively and passionate curiosity.  The end result of a childhood with more time spent in front of computer screens than outdoors is what we call “cultural autism.  The symptoms are tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment and a wired, now it all state of mind …. That which cannot be “googled” does not count … attitude.

When nature has been replace by computer screens and fancy indoor toys, the result is an increased risk for attention deficit disorder.   Boys are at least 3 times as likely to be treated for ADHD compared with girls.  One wonders to what extent the shift from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft may have contributed to the explosion in the numbers of children being treated for ADHD.

If boys are deprived of that balance between Wissenschaft and Kenntnis, they may simply disengage from school.  If you ask a boy to read about the life cycle of a tadpole metamorphosing into a frog, but that boy has never touched a frog, never had the experience of jumping around in a stream in his bare feet chasing after a tadpole, he may not see the point.  This shift in learning has the unintended consequence of diminishing the motivation of boys to study what they are asked to learn.

The first thing that happens when you ask kids to do stuff they have no interest in, is they stop paying attention. The second thing that happens is they get annoyed, they get irritable, and they withdraw.  “I hate school. It is stupid” Anything associated with school is uncool.  Reading is uncool; Caring about school is uncool, being interested in learning become uncool.  We need a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, teachers who know how to teach boys.

Think for a movement about boys who thrive on competition (not all boys do). Consider how changes in our schools and in our society over the past thirty years may have disengaged these boys.

--Traditional PE- Eliminated dodge ball and kickball. 
--Zero tolerance for violence (writing stories of war and killing the bad guy)
-- Competitive Sports (School sizes so big, but only one team, therefore elite few can participate in competitive sports. Schools in other countries have one than one team so more can participate. Australian schools have up to 7 teams per school. Teams practice during school as a class, no team practices everyday.

When a teacher or principal tells you that the school has a zero tolerance policy for students writing violent stories, ask them whether the same policy applies to what the students read.  If students are not allowed to read violent fiction then the librarian will have to remove novels by Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy and many others from the shelves.  But if they are not going to ban Hemingway then on what grounds can they reasonably prohibit boys from trying to write in the same genre that they are allowed to read?   Just a thought……

Boys who are competitive will be competitive in every aspect of their life, and will usually respond well to any challenge so long as:
            There are winners and losers, and
            The outcome is in doubt. Anybody might win or lose   everything depends on how hard you play
            Satisfy both criteria and boys will be on board, if one of those is missing, they won’t see the point and they will disengage, lose interest, and stare out the window.

Team competition has another benefit for boys who are motivated by the will to win.
Team competition socializes boys.  It teachers boys to value something above themselves. It subordinates some of the ego and the egocentricity that these boys often manifest.

A noncompetitive format in which ”everybody’s a winner” is a sure way to disengage a boy from the whole process.

If your son is motivated by competition, then eliminating it from his school, throwing out his toy guns, and forbidding him to write stories with violent themes won’t change him.  Those policies may disengage him from school, however. The end result may be a boy who feels that the only place he is truly understood as he really is, is the world of video games.

2.                  Video Games

Boy world is a weird place.  Many boys and young men are wrestling with drives and motivations that a lot of parents, especially mothers, don’t understand.

Not making a grand statement about all boys.  Focusing only on those boys who seem unmotivated to do their best, boys who don’t seem to care much about getting the best grades or getting into a good college, or capable of doing school work, but not interested in doing it.  Let’s agree that physiologically, boys have not changed much in the past thirty years: genetic makeup can’t be significantly altered in only one generation or even ten.  Society has changed.

Why do some task engage your boy’s motivational engine, while others don’t?   The answer, I think, lies in a concept that most of these boys have never heard of, something that contemporary psychologists refer to as “the will to power”.   (not all boys fit in the will to power category)

Will to Power: those individuals want to be in charge of their environment. If you tell a boy who has a generous dose of this kind of motivation to sit down, he will stand up.  If you tell him to stand up, he will sit down.  He does not care so much whether he is standing or sitting.  But he needs to know, and needs you to know that he is in charge of whether he stands or sits.

The power takes precedence over other drives and other perspectives.  They would rather be in charge than be well-liked.  Many of the boys who seem unmotivated, from our perspective are actually motivated by the will to power.  Secretly, these boys often believe that they are special, that they are unique, that they have a destiny that will be revealed in time.  As a result, they believe that rules that apply to ordinary people don’t apply to them.

Video Games give boys the feelings of power and control they crave:  The real world of homework and textbooks can’t compete—not at least for the boy who is motivated by the will to power. 

I don’t agree that technology is the best way to inspire kids to learn.  I believe that kids are more effectively motivated by interacting with the real world, or by team competition.

Do video games improve kid’s reaction times – yes?  Do video games help kids to better I n school? Help improve their grades or test scores? NO.  Studies clearly demonstrate that the more time your child spends playing video games, the less likely he is to do well in school.  Video game playing = negative correlation.

Kids who play video games often/instead of real sports…find real sports too demanding.  They don’t want to do the work that they would have to do, to train the way they would have to train, to get in shape and play a real sport.  Besides, they believe that because they know something about football, (from playing football video games) that it is the same as knowing how to play football. 

There is actually some disturbing evidence that boys today, on the average, are less intelligent—less able to understand and solve real world problems, compared with boys just fifteen years ago. This due to lack of experiential play, hands on play that allows kids to experience how the world works in practice.

Virtues lost via video games:


            The stereotypical pastimes of boys and men in previous generations were pretty good at teaching skills like patience; going hunting and fishing.  That sort of patience might serve a young father well.  But video games do not teach that kind of patience. 

Do video games disengage boys from the real world? Does playing video games make boys more violent?  Researchers at Yale University reported that playing violent video games such as Doom clearly and unambiguously cause young men to have a more violent self image and to behave more violently; this report has not received any coverage in the media, to the best of my knowledge.  Playing this type of game leads directly to aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect and cardiovascular arousal, and to decreases in helping behavior.  The linage between the violent game and the boy’s antisocial behavior is unequivocally cause and effect these researchers found; the end result is that boys who play these games are more like to engage in “serious, real world types of aggression”.

Moreover, researchers have found that playing violent video games has a substantially more toxic effect than watching equally violent television programs, probably because when a boy is watching a violent TV program he is watching someone else commit the violent act, but when he is playing Doom or Grand Theft Auto or Halo, he is inflicting the death and destruction himself.

Video games also tend to teach the wrong lessons about masculinity.   These games are gratifying to boys, not only because the boys have the satifaction of being the tough guy, but also because they are in charge of the game itself; they can turn it off any time they want to and move on to another game.  In real life, you can’t just walk away from the havoc you create. 

The destructive effects of video games are not on boys’ cognitive abilities or their reaction times, but on their motivation and their connectedness with the real world.  They are highly motivated, but their motivation has been derailed.        

Note: Not all boys who play video games twenty hours a week will disengage from real life, and not all boys who disengage from real life are video game players.  Here are some guidelines provided:

Recommended that you first of all either play the game yourself or watch it being played, and then ask yourself these questions;

            Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
            Does this happen frequently more than once or twice in thirty min.?
            Is the harm rewarded in any way?
            Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
            Are nonviolent solutions absent or less “fun” than the violent ones?
            Are realist consequences of violence absent from the game?

Violent games that reward antisocial aggression –games such as grand theft auto and doom should not be permitted in the home.  Period.  Antisocial aggression means aggression such as killing police offices or prostitutes.  On the other hand, games that rewards the player for killing terrorists and penalize for careless injury to innocent bystanders is less harmful, but still not as good of a choice has your son racing his bicycle around a tract.

Another consideration is what activities are displaced by playing video games. If your son is neglecting his friendships, refusing to sit down to dinner with the family then priorities are messed up.

Or maybe there is a more complex dynamic at work.  If family life is miserable, you son may use video games as an excuse to get of family activities, you may have to ask yourself some hard questions about why that might be so.

Surprisingly, especially to those of us over thirty, many boys today seem to prefer playing video games to being with girls. College administrators are reporting that more and more young men don’t want to meet anybody.  They just want to stay in their rooms, talk to no one and play video games into the wee hours.  They miss classes until they withdraw or flunk out.

As you restrict your son’s access to video games you will want to help find a constructive outlet for your sons’ need to conquer.  In some cases, competitive sports and a more competitive academic format might provide such an outlet.  You need to figure out how can he best satisfy his need to be tested and to triumph?

Video games teach boys that if you manipulate things a certain way, you will get an easy win.  These boys have little interaction with people during the years when such interaction is crucial in developing the skills they need to handle themselves as an adult.  They shut themselves off to the real world and get caught up in their fantasy worlds.  After a while, they prefer their fantasies to the real world.  In the real world, things are not so easy to control.  They can’t rule with a joystick.  In the real world they have to talk to people.  They have to work. Bringing up another point.  Laziness. 

I believe if you were to research the growing popularity of video games and compare it to the growing number of young men living at home, you would certainly find a parallel.

3.                  Medications for ADHD

Sound familiar:

He would start running after the truck and just keep going.  He’d forget to come home, and wander, fearlessly and aimlessly, through other people’s backyards and driveways.

He seems hyperactive; just wanted you to be aware that he is having trouble staying in his seat.  He just can’t sit still very long before he starts wiggling.  I tell him to sit still, and he does, and then five minutes later he is wriggling in his chair again and giggling.  It is very distracting to the other children.

We are encouraging you to have him seen by a doctor.

But if my son isn’t ready to do that does that mean my son has a problem?  Maybe the school has a problem; maybe the problem is the school expecting a five year old boy to sit still in a chair all day long.  You know his school has all-day kindergarten?

Doctors reply:  For the boys who aren’t ready to sit still in a chair all day long—their first experience of school is one long frustrating bore.  And once they get off to a bad start, things can snowball in the wrong direction.  One year can make a big difference.  Often a boy will be more willing and able to sit still in class when he is sic than when he was five.  That one year can make all the difference in the world.

Parent’s reply:  But how would I explain to my friends, and my parents, that my son flunked out of kindergarten?  They would think he is retarded.  No I can’t do that. I will just medicate him.

His initial response to the medication reassured her that she had made the right decision.  His behavior in school improved.  She decided not to make him take it over Christmas vacation.  The first two days he was off the medication, she was alarmed by his behavior.  His old impulsivity and energy were back, but with an unfamiliar edge.  During the summer when she stopped the meds again she noticed he did not rebound, he was lazy and everything was boring, except for video games.

The syndrome we call ADHD has probably always been with us.

People have suggested, with good reason, that perhaps the pathology lies not in the boy but in the school.  In Why Gender Matters, I told the story of a boy who needed to be on multiple medications for ADHD when he was in school; but when he was assisting a professional hunter in Zimbabwe, he did not need the medications at all, even when he had to sit motionless in the bush for long periods of time.

Boys in 2007 are thirty times more likely to be taking these medications compared with boys in 1987.

Several factors account for the greater willingness of doctors to medicate young minds today, and the greater willingness of parents to accept and even to seek out such mediation.  One factor is our cultural shift away from individual responsibility towards third-party explanations. (Interesting reading pp 85-87) on this.

You can see how the assignment of responsibility differs in these two cases (in above reading pp 85).  If your son is a disobedient brat, then your son and you have to take responsibility.  You have to own up to the problem.  You will probably have to make some changes.  But if your son has a psychiatric diagnosis, that means he has a chemical imbalance in his brain.  He and you are no more to blame for that imbalance than if your son were diagnosed with leukemia, right?  Many clinicians find it easier to tell parent s their child has a brain based disorder than to suggest parenting changes.

Another factor has to do with the inappropriate acceleration of the early elementary curriculum.  Already discussed in Chapter 2.

One third of American children who are taking psychotropic medications today are actually taking two or three or four medications, not just one.  The diagnosis is first suggested by a teacher in most cases.  I have investigated, and the teacher’s observation was correct; the child is not paying attention.  But does he truly have ADHD or is there some other reason?  Most Pediatricians and family physicians simply do not have the training to perform a sophisticated neurodevelopmental assessment of a five or six or seven year old boy to determine whether that boy’s difficulties are due to ADHD or to some other problem.

 In research medication for ADHD improved the performance of NORMAL kids by the same degree that it improved the performance of kids with ADHD.

If the medication for ADHD helps him to learn better, doesn’t that mean that he probably has ADHD?

As many of us have long suspected, and as Dr. Gabrieli’s study confirms, the answer to that question is no. The medications are likely to improve the performance of a normal child just as much as a child who truly has ADHD.  Just because these medications improve a child’s performance I n class, does not mean that the child has ADHD.

But where’s the harm?

Many boys do look and feel more or less OK while they are taking these medications.  What these parents don’t know... and what the doctor also may not know... is that even relatively short-term use of these drugs, for just a year or perhaps less, can lead to changes in personality.  The boy who used to be agreeable, outgoing, and adventurous becomes lazy and irritable.

Prof Carlezon and colleagues at Harvard reported that giving stimulant medication... such as those used to treat boys with ADHD to juvenile laboratory animals results in those animals displaying a loss of drive when they grow up.  These animals look normal, but they are lazy.  They don’t want to work hard for anything, not even to escape a bad situation.

Children who take these medications may look fine while they are taking them.  They may look fine after they stop taking them.  But as adults when they are no longer taking the medications they won’t have much drive.  They won’t have much get up and go.

The stimulant medications appear to exert their harmful effects by damaging an area in the developing brain called the nucleus accumbens.  The part of the brain that is responsible for translating motivation into action.  If a boy’s nucleus accumbens is damaged, he may still feel hungry, or sexually aroused.  He just won’t feel motivated to do anything about it.

I have seen many cases; boys who were put on medications when they attended a coed school, who were able to stop those medications after switching to a boy’s school, and who blossomed into well rounded students and athletes after making the transition.  Those cases have led me to believe that in many cases, boys are being put on these medications to fit the boy to the school.  I have come to believe that we should not medicate boys so they fit the school; we should change the school to fit the boy.

You have to know your child and then find the school that is the best match for your child.

So far, we have identified three factors:

1.                  Changes in educational format and curricula over the past twenty to thirty years, in particular; the acceleration of the early elementary curriculum; the shift from Kenntnis to Wissenschaft; the abolition of competitive formats.
2.                  The advent of ultra-high-tech video games
3.                  The over prescribing of stimulant medications.

4.                  Endocrine Disruptors

In the fall of 2006, scientists studying fish in the Potomac River reported an unsettling discover.  Collecting fish near the Wilson Bridge, the scientists found that the females were normal, but the males were not.  When the scientists examined the male sex organs, they did not find sperm, they found eggs.

Looked at seven different sites… at least 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass they examined were feminized: the sex organs in the male fish were making eggs instead of sperm.

The overwhelming majority of modern chemicals that mimic the action of human sex hormones, curiously, mimic the action only of the female hormones.  As a result, the average child today is practically awash in synthetic chemicals that have the effect of accelerating a girl’s sexual development.  The effects on boys are more subtle.  The net effect appears to be a slowing and or warping of boys’ sexual development.  There is now substantial evidence that the very same endocrine disrupting chemicals that accelerate puberty in girls may delay or disrupt the process of puberty in boys.

In 2003 scientists discovered that a common pesticide can slow and disrupt the process of puberty in boys…only in boys…apparently because it blocks the action of testosterone and other androgens.

In the past five years, scientists have found that activities that introduce chemicals—bisphenol A or phthalates (from plastics) into the baby’s system may actually damage a boy’s brain.

In boys, testosterone fuels more than just sexual interest; it fuels the drive to achieve, to be the best, to compete.  Successful, high achieving boys have higher testosterone levels than boys who are content to come in last.  For Girls it is not so.  This sex difference may be one reason why the flood of estrogenic chemicals in which today’s children are immersed has not impaired the drive or motivation of girls, but the boys, increasingly, are lazy.

Infants, toddlers, and young children don’t make sex hormones.  Their bodies and brains are not mean to be exposed to them until puberty begins.

They may also be contributing to one of our most serious health problems; childhood obesity.  Estrogens regulate the size of fat cells.

We have seen how exposure to environmental estrogens can lead to overweight, in both girls and boys.  And while exposure to synthetic endocrine disruptors may accelerate puberty in girls, we have see that exposure to the same synthetic substances can disrupt or slow the process of puberty in boys.  We now know that these substance3s may cause ADHD.  Scientists are now reporting that these three conditions—delayed puberty, overweight, and ADHD—occur together much more often than would be expected by chance—but again, only in boys.
Where environmental estrogens may strengthen bones in girls, they have a more complex effect o n boys.  We now know that environmental estrogens appear to cause lower testosterone levels in young men, these lower testosterone levels will likely impair bone mineralization.  In other words, young men will have bones that are more brittle than the bones of young men a generation ago.  Research supports this.

There is growing evidence that the end result of our increasingly toxic environment is girls who are both masculine and feminine, and boys who are neither masculine nor feminine.  We need to consider the possibility that the very hardware that makes a boy a boy may be in jeopardy.

Private Parts:  Your son may be less than half the man your father was.  American boys today are three times more likely to be born with genital abnormalities such as undescended testicle compared with American boys thirty years ago.  Young men today have lower testosterone levels than their grandfathers ha, and there is growing concern that male infertility is on the rise.

The problem may start very early.  I have suggested that is a woman drinks water or soda from a clear plastic bottle while she is pregnant the baby boy growing in her womb may be adversely affected. Tests followed.

The research: Dr. Swan and her colleagues found what they had feared. Mothers who had high levels of phthalates in their system were roughly ten times m ore likely to give birth to boys whose genitals showed subtle anomalies.  The most common malformations in American boys were smaller than normal penises; undescended testicles; and hypospadias, a condition in which the opening at the tip of the penis is not at the tip but is father down the shaft of the penis—leading Dr. Swan to conclude that in these boys, the process of masculinization was incomplete.

Dr. Swan has prepared some suggestions to help you safeguard your children, and yourself, from damaging effects of environmental estrogens:

-         Don’t’ give your son soft vinyl toys or pacifies made with phthalates—look for products labeled “PVC-free”
-         Don’t microwave food  in plastic
-         Heat meals in microwave using bowl vs plate
-         Avoid plastic bottles (for anyone,  for water or baby bottles)
-         Don’t allow your dentist to put sealants on your children’s teeth unless the dentist can assure you that the sealants are phthalate-fee

5.                  The Revenge of the Forsaken Gods

A boy does not naturally become a gentleman—by which I mean a man who is courteous and kind and unselfish.  That behavior is not hardwired.  It has to be taught.

Core values boys should be taught at home and school:
Scholarship     Integrity     Civility   Tolerance     Altruism
Sportsmanship     Responsibility     Self-discipline

It is not enough for a boy to become a man.  We want him to become a gentleman.  A gentleman doesn’t pretend to make farting noises to amuse his buddies.  A gentleman doesn’t harass girls or women.  A gentleman doesn’t interrupt a girl when she is speaking.  At this boy’s school, all these points are explicitly taught to the boys.

Almost every culture of which we have detailed knowledge takes great care in managing this transition to adulthood.

What happens when a culture…like ours…neglects this transition?  For a decade or two, or three, perhaps, the culture can coast along.  But after thirty plus years of neglecting this transition, one might expect problems to begin developing.

We are now seeing a rise in violent crime committed by young men.

If we fail to provide boys with pro-social models of the transition to adulthood, they may construct their own. (Gangs. Etc.)
There is no enduring culture in which cowardly men are esteemed, or in which brave men are held in contempt.  There is no enduring culture in which lazy men are celebrated while hardworking men are despised.

Almost every other enduring culture of which we have detailed knowledge…pass this information from one generation to the next in gender separate communities.  Women teach girls what is expected of adult women in their community.  Men teach boys.

But when it comes to showing boys how a gentleman behaves…how a gentleman interacts with women, how he responds to adversity, how he serves his community, then there is no substitute for having a male role model.

But there is no enduring culture in which parents attempt this task alone.  As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a boy to manhood.

Manhood is not something that simply happens to boys as they get older.  It is an achievement…something a boy accomplishes, something that can easily go awry.

American Culture…Toxic to Boys and to girls?
            Death rates among children and teenagers in the US due to cancer and unintentional injuries have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past fifty years.  But over these same fifty years, homicide rates among us youth have risen by more than 130 percent, while suicide rates have risen by almost 140 percent.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among Americans under the age of eighteen.

The Changing American Father—the stature of the father figure in the American Family has taken a considerable tumble in the past forty or fifty years.  The father figures played by Mac Murray and Young (My Three Sons and Father knows Best) were wise, caring, and competent.  Compared to Homer Simpson – who is always an idiot, always a klutz, always the least intelligent character in any episode.

My own assessment is that TV shows reflect our society more than they shape it.

What does it mean to be a man?  The answer is; being a man means using your strength in the service of others.

Note : if the TV role models as head of the house are the butt of the jokes, the unrespected character why would any boy want to grow up to be head of the house?

End Result – Failure to Launch

Owner of Plumbing business approached a public school and asked them whether they would help us set up an apprenticeship program in plumbing.  They said fine, provided that we could recruit 12 students in the county for the program. They would be provided training to become a Master Plumber, and guaranteed a job with a six figure salary upon completion. The county has over forty thousand students.  They only got 10 boys to commit to the program, and after one month, more than half the boys had quit.  At the end of the program only three boys were left.

They had no interested in working.  They just did not care.  Earning lots of money just seems to have no appeal to them.

John has a problem.  He can’t find good help.  It has been more than 10 years since I have been able to hire any young man born in the U. S. A. and keep him for more than a month.  Number one, these young guys nowadays have no idea of craftsmanship.  Number two, they don’t have any interest in learning. None whatsoever.

For Several years, Mr. Donohoe made valiant efforts to recruit young people to enter the trades:  to become an electrician, a plumber, a welder, or other skilled craftsman.  He would begin his talks by asking all the students; “how many of you plan on going to college?  Almost all of the students would raise their hands. Then he would ask, “how many of you can tell me why you are going to college?  What do you want to do that requires a college education?”

Usually only about five or six students raise their hands to answer this questions.

How come nobody want to go into the trades?  I think it starts with the parents, and the teachers.  They look down their noses at what they call “blue collar” work. 

However, we (trade people) require smart people, highly motivated people who totally understand what they are doing. 

Whatever Happed to Money and Sex?  Traditionally, one of the factors driving Western society has been the fact that women prefer successful, affluent men over men who are less successful.  Because men understood that women would be reluctant to marry men who could not comfortably support a wife and children, men were motivated to be successful.  Theat simple mechanism has suffered a double whammy in the past forty years.
            First, sex has been divorced from marriage, Second, sexual satisfaction has been divorced from women altogether.  If you don’t work with todays teenage boys on a regular basis, you may not understand the extent to which pornographic images of women have replaced the real thing.

Traditionally, boys who wanted money and or sex were motivated to be successful in their job or career, because was the surest route to money and sex.

American boys today are unlikely to take a job they find demeaning or boring, or pursue a career that does not interest them.

Lots of real life Failure to Launch stories.

My own belief, based in part on my twenty years of medical practice, is that if parents continue to shelter their adult child after the age of twenty-one years, the parents may make it less likely that the adult child will ever be willing and able to meet the challenges of the real world. (exception for son that has just graduated and is 22-23, if he is looking for job, month okay…. Year not okay….)

Next chapter sums everything up chapter by chapter.