In recent years trends for boys and young men have begun to point in the wrong direction. Academic achievement is lagging while the incidence of health disorders is climbing. Data validate this decline, as do day-to-day conversations among parents, teachers and others. The problem affects all of our boys and young men regardless of race or ethnicity. While the problem is far more significant and chronic among minority youth, achievement also eludes white young men.
Besides young men themselves, this trend impacts their potential life partners, our communities, and our nation. The US and the world are becoming increasingly competitive. For the success of our society as well as our young men it is therefore imperative that we begin to address this issue in meaningful ways.
The mission of The Boys Initiative is to shed light on the issue, to foster dialogue and debate about it, and to collaborate on solutions with those who are committed to the futures of our nation’s youth. The organization’s principal role is to serve as a hub for information exchange and action among the broad range of organizations whose work touches on boys and young men.
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.