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Boys Adrift - Book Review

Updated on May 14, 2010

Boys Adrift

by Leonard Sax M.D., Ph.D

Have you noticed a lack of motivation in boys today?

Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, they’re less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. In fact, a third of men ages 22-34 are still living at home with their parents –about a 100 percent increase in the past twenty years.

In Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax shows how social and biological factors create an toxic environment for boys--- literally. Too much time indulged with media—video games, texting, movies, ipods and itunes—over-reliance on medication for ADD and ADHD, plastics in our diet, even teaching techniques in our schools play a part in the actual damage to the brain of our boys.

Dr. Sax encourages parents with a wide range of reassuring remedies. Simple, easy, motivational changes that parents can make to protect boys from the environmental estrogens that undermine boys’ motivation.

Well written in easy to read language, Dr. Sax engages the reader with stories, antidotes and facts.

 Chapter 2 talks about the difference in brain development between  boys and girls.  “Critics of American education often point out, quite accurately, that the United States spends more money per pupil than most other developed countries and yet accomplishes less.”  As a matter of fact, the US ranks about #25th in international rankings.  Finland is right at the top.  What’s the difference?  Children in Finland don’t begin any formal school until they are seven years old.

Chapter 3 deals with video games and the virtual reality we provide for our boys.  “Every investigator who has correlated the amount of time that a child or adolescent or young adult spends playing video games with that student’s academic performance has found a negative correlation.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Sax talks about the Endocrine Disruptors our kids are exposed to.

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

This weird finding wasn’t confined to the congested and polluted areas around the Wilson Bridge. The Scientists collected fish at all seven tributaries of the Potomac, extending two hundred miles up the Shenandoah River into Virginia and more than one hundred miles up both the Monocacy River and Conococheague Creek in Maryland. At every one of these seven sites, the scientists found that 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.

Vicki Blazer, a veterinary pathologist who specializes in fish, acknowledged that the results were “striking.” She concluded that the Potomac River and its tributaries clearly have significant levels of “endocrine disruptors”: substances that mimic the actions of hormones, specifically female hormones. The hormones themselves are not present in the river. (pg 100)

Dr. Sax points out that girls are developing earlier now than ever before. They found that the girls whose breasts had developed early had high levels of phthalates (PET), the substance found in plastic bottles. In fact they had nearly six times the PET levels than girls considered ‘normal’, whose breasts had not yet developed.

The damaging effects of environmental estrogens on American boys may well cause harm beyond increases in the rates of ADHD. In recent years scientists have begun to understand that the fountainhead of drive and motivation is very different in girls and boys. In boys, testosterone fuels more than just sexual interest: it fuels the drive to achieve, to be the best, to compete. …boys, increasingly, are lazy.


Dr. Leonard Sax M.D., PhD.


Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., is a family physician, research psychologist, and acclaimed author. He is a popular speaker and has appeared on CNN, PBS, Fox News, NPR and many other media programs.

He is the author of Why Gender Matters, a thought-provoking book , offering several compelling arguments in support of same-sex education, such as analyses that find girls are more likely to study physics and boys are more likely to study literature in single-sex schools. But whether or not you agree with Sax, his volume is a worthy read for those who care about how best to prepare children for the challenges they face on the path to adulthood.

His latest book, Girls On The Edge is another must read book. The Product Description on Amazon states:

Girls are cutting themselves with razors. Girls are convinced they’re fat, and starve themselves to prove it. Other girls are so anxious about grades they can’t sleep at night—at eleven years of age. What’s going on? In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax provides the answers. He shares stories of girls who look confident and strong on the outside, but are fragile within. He shows why a growing proportion of teen and tween girls are confused about their sexual identity, or are obsessed with grades or Facebook. Dr. Sax provides parents with tools to help girls become confident women, along with practical tips on helping your daughter choose a sport, nurturing her spirit through female centered activities, and more. Compelling and inspiring, Girls on the Edge points the way to a new future for today’s young women.


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    • Sa`ge profile image

      Sa`ge 7 years ago from Barefoot Island

      Another great hub with important and interesting information. Thank you for all your work in putting it together. ~aloha~

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      This is very interesting. I have really noticed the difference between the boys and girls in my daughter's kindergarten class. Recently, the schools implemented an all-day kindergarten. The boys seemed to have a much harder time with this and there was a lot of acting up. They're just not ready to be in school all day or at all for that matter! I thought it was interesting that in Finland the boys don't start school until they are seven. In this country, we think we have to treat boys and girls equally but sometimes that is just not the case. Thanks for this informative hub.

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

      Thanks to all who have commented. I really am worried about the trend. I totally agree with James's comment that "Boys that act like boys are signed up for Ritalin!"

      Dr. Sax new book 'Girls on the Edge' is another eye opening account. I work in the prison system here in Utah and it is simply awful how common cutting is among girls. It seems like if boys are going to become mean, they take it out on women, and if women become mean they take it out on themselves.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this fine presentation. Boys are in trouble, for the reasons you mentioned above and due to the feminization of education. Boys who act like boys are signed up for Ritalin! It is important to let boys be boys. We will need the boys in men when they become men.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Very interesting review on this book which seems to be explaining what we see these days. I have never seen so many young men living at home as there are now. Good hub.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa


      Keep on hubbing!

    • kkbunnylover profile image

      kkbunnylover 7 years ago

      this is amasing (comment on me