I have discovered that there is, in fact, a boy crisis; that it is a global crisis, and that it is particularly egregious in the U.S.
In an astonishing disclosure about the two greatest dangers to the future of America’s economy, Fed Chair Jerome Powell revealed on 60 Minutes (March 10, 2019) the peril posed by “young males”: young males not looking for work; being addicted to drugs (think: opioid crisis); and being unprepared for the transition to technology. Powell posits that this economic problem is also a national security problem. He implies that we ignore this crisis at our own peril. Yet his warning is ignored.
In my half century of research on boys and men, I have discovered that there is, in fact, a boy crisis; that it is a global crisis, and that it is particularly egregious in the U.S. The crisis is more than economic. It is multi-faceted, with each facet magnifying the others.
It is a crisis of mental health. Boys’ suicide rate goes from only slightly more than girls before age 14; to three times that of girls’ between 15 and 19; to four-and-a-half times that of girls between 20 and 24. Mass shooters, prisoners and ISIS recruits are 95% male.
Read more commentary:
It is a crisis of physical health. Boys’ sperm counts are dropping. American men’s life expectancy has decreased two-tenths of a year even as American women’s has remained the same. Boys and men are dying earlier in fourteen out of fifteen of the leading causes of death.
It is a crisis of shame. Of boys feeling their masculinity is toxic; that the future is female; that dads are but bumbling fools or deadbeats.
It is a crisis of economic health. The economy is making a transition from muscle to mental — or from muscle to microchip, as with the 1.7 million truck drivers predicted to be largely replaced by self-driving trucks. With the U.S. neglecting vocational education, boys with no college education have a 20% chance of being unemployed — about five times the national average.
Boys are falling behind girls in the 63 largest developed nations. As developed nations developed solutions to surviving, they allowed more permission for divorce and for children to be raised with minimal or no father involvement. A great solution — less fear of starvation — created a new problem: dad-deprivation.
I discovered that the boy crisis resides where dads do not reside. For example, The American Psychological Association found that father absence predicts the profile of both the bully and the bullied’s poor social skills, and the bully’s poor grades and self-esteem. Every 1% increase in fatherlessness in a neighborhood predicts a 3% increase in adolescent violence. It starts early. Prior to six months of age, the less interaction a boy has with his dad, the lower his mental competence.
And dad-deprivation is a significant predictor of the increasing rate of male suicide, drug overdose, obesity, and withdrawal into video game addiction. It even predicts by age nine a shorter life expectancy as determined by shorter telomeres. Aggregately, this leads to my predicting that the biggest gap between boys who are successful and unsuccessful in the future will be the gap between those who are dad-enriched versus dad-deprived.
As Powell points out, the U.S. exacerbates this problem by falling behind every developed nation in preparing our sons for the changes in technology. In contrast, Japan has extensive vocational education programs, with 99.6% of their graduates receiving jobs after graduation. A boy who is not academically-inclined may be bored by physics and chemistry until he learns that to be a highly-paid welder he needs them. Then he sees purpose, and his motivation changes.
There is a straightforward solution to dad-deprivation. It is dad-involvement. Conservatives have long supported dad involvement; and both Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem have said that mothers would not be equal at work until dads were equal in the home. Plus, it addresses numerous problems: First, dad-deprived girls experience most of the problems faced by boys, albeit less intensely. Second, an involved dad predicts a son much more likely to be employed, so aspiring moms don’t have to search for a dad in unemployment lines. Third, with fewer boys defining their purpose as future warriors by being disposable in war, and fewer defining masculinity as being a sole breadwinner, millions of young men are experiencing a “purpose void.” Inspiring young men to become “Father Warriors” can fill that purpose void. But this also involves inspiring women to value father warriors.
Solutions to the boy crisis must be addressed simultaneously in the family, in schools and by policy-makers. To name a few: Parents need communication training to prevent the divorces that breed the boy crisis. Schools need male teachers, vocational education and recess. Presidential candidates need to identify the boy crisis as a signature issue. And President Trump, with an executive order, can create a White House Council on Boys and Men to make the boy crisis a national priority, so millions of parents and sons do not feel isolated and ashamed, but supported to address a solution toward stronger families, more boy-friendly schools, and a more economically and psychologically secure America.
Warren Farrell, is author (with John Gray) of “The Boy Crisis.” He has been chosen by The Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. Farrell served for three years on the Board of N.O.W. in N.Y.C., and is the chair of the Coalition to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. Find him at warrenfarrell.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drwarrenfarrell
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/04/07/males-risk-boy-crisis-identity-america-future-addiction-suicide-column/3331366002/