Their school dropout rates are climbing. Their college completion rates are falling. As a group they are failing to adjust to a rapidly changing economy.
As our society changes at an accelerating pace the role of our young men in it has become less clear. Many traditional male roles are disappearing, replaced by uncertainty. The very concept of what it means to be a male, to be “masculine”, is changing dramatically.
Today we have an adolescent obesity epidemic in this country. Adolescent males have a higher prevalence of obesity than females, and the rate of obesity among adolescent males is increasing, while the rate for females has stabilized. The rate of intentional injury and homicide among adolescent males is four times that of adolescent females. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in males age 15 to 24 and adolescent males are four times as likely as adolescent females to die by suicide. Adolescent males have an unintended injury rate that is double that of females, and adolescent males have an ADHD diagnosis rate that is three times that of adolescent females.
The problem affects all of our boys and young males regardless of race or ethnicity. While the problem is more significant and chronic among minority youth, achievement also eludes white young males.
Something has gone terribly wrong. Something must be done to fix it.
The Boys Initiative has been established to begin addressing these issues in a collaborative fashion by bringing together individuals and organizations that hold promise for change.
We serve as a forum for information exchange and dialogue. We help identify the most pressing issues. We help organize those who can contribute to change, and we facilitate collaborative solutions.
While we strive to address a range of issues, our current focus is on health. Within the next two years we plan to produce guidance for both health care providers and male youth about how to promote healthy living and healthy outcomes. Our vanguard program in this area is Ensuring Healthy Futures for adolescent and young adult males. Visit our webpageon this project. Share your ideas and let us know how you think we are doing.
In the meantime we invite you to subscribe to our daily news feed on issues about boys and young males via our Twitter handle @Boysinitiative.
Boys' academic achievement has been declining at an accelerating rate. The decline has been both relative to girls, whose achievement has been advancing, and in absolute terms. Today, young men are less likely to attend and graduate from college than they were just a generation ago. With a shrinking manufacturing base, this leaves men with diminishing professional options. The consequences are beginning to be reflected in the economic data, exacerbated by the effects of Great Recession.
Mental health problems, as reflected by the rising rate of suicide among our youth, are increasing. The rate of attempted suicide is higher among girls; however, the rate of successful suicide is higher among boys. The impacts of mental health problems, such as early drug use and other risky behaviors, often manifest themselves differently in boys and girls. While bullying among both genders is on the rise, the type of bullying among boys is different than the type typically engaged in by girls.
Boys' physical transition from childhood to adolescence occurs at a later age than girls'. As a consequence, issues related to their health, from childhood obesity to the propensity for risky behaviors, do not necessarily arise on parallel age tracks. Sexual development also typically occurs later for boys than for girls, and raises a host of moral and religious, as well as physical, issues. These may be different for boys than for girls, and the ways to communicate most effectively about them may differ between genders.