American society and culture have been working to rectify some inequities in our culture concerning women and girls, including establishing Title IX in athletics and working toward pay equity in the work place. But have we left our boys behind and lost focus on their unique needs and struggles?
Dr. Warren Farrell has been on the board of four different national men’s organizations, was elected three times to the board of the National Organization of Women, and he has written a new book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. Dr. Farrell joins host Traci DeVette Griggs on this week’s episode of Family Policy Matters to discuss his book.
“It’s not just that boys are going to be only half as likely as girls to graduate from college in the very near future…but they’re also far more likely to commit suicide,” says Dr. Farrell. In addition, “Male IQs have gone down in the last decade, [and] in 70 different areas of measurement, boys have fallen behind where they used to be and/or where girls are.”
Dr. Farrell explains how “dad deprivation” can impact boys from both intact as well as non-intact families, and he provides helpful information on four things that children from non-intact families need to improve outcomes. Dr. Farrell also explains the suicide rate and how, “males are programmed and socialized to repress their feelings,” which may leave boys feeling that “nobody loves them, nobody needs them, and there’s no hope of that changing.” Men and boys may see themselves as “disposable.”
What can we do? Among other things, family dinner night is still a very important tool for our sons, and Dr. Farrell gives some helpful suggestions on how to, “prevent family dinner nights from becoming family dinner nightmares.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Dr. Warren Farrell discuss his new book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. For the last half century or so, American society and culture have worked to rectify some inequities in our culture concerning women and girls, including establishing Title IX in athletics and working toward pay equity in the work place. But during this effort, have we, at the same time, left behind our boys and lost focus on their unique needs and struggles?
Well, Dr. Warren Farrell argues that we are facing a boy crisis today, and that harms not just males but also girls and women. Besides being on the board of four different national men’s organizations, Dr. Farrell has also been elected three times to the board of the National Organization of Women. He has just written a new book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. Dr Warren Farrell, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Thank you. I’m looking forward to talking.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: Start off by telling us — why do you think that we are suffering from a boy crisis?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Well, first of all, many people don’t understand that there really is a boy crisis, that it’s not just that boys are going to be only half as likely as girls to graduate from college in the very near future, and are only about 44 percent of the college graduates right now. But they’re also far more likely to commit suicide. Male IQs have gone down in the last decade. In 70 different areas of measurement, boys have fallen behind where they used to be and/or where girls are, and the problem with that is that so, for example, on the education issue, when girls graduate from college at twice the rate of boys, most girls who are college graduates are not looking to marry a dropout or somebody that never even got into college to begin with. So this affects the ability of girls to find a father that they feel is appropriate for helping to raise children. And so this, therefore, impacts whether or not they even raise children, by themselves or with a man. That impacts the children because we know that children that have minimal or no father involvement do much worse than children that have both father and mother involvement. And this is especially true for boys. I’d say the boy crisis resides where dads do not reside more than any other single of perhaps ten causes of the boy crisis.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: I can understand a lot of the examples that you gave based on what’s going on in our culture, the graduation from college, the number of men in college, suicide. Talk a little bit about the IQs.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: We don’t fully know what’s led to that. What I do know is that as people feel less sense of purpose and people take fewer risks, when you’re taking more risks, so, for example, a father is far more likely to encourage a child to take risks, like, you know, climb the tree but be careful. When we do that risk taking, or we roughhouse with a child, the synapses in our brains develop and they go into areas that they didn’t go into before, and that does increase the IQ of a child. The degree to which we protect a child or the child doesn’t feel a sense of purpose — that is, when you have a sense of purpose, you sort of try harder, you take risks, you wake up every day and you’re really motivated, and when you have less motivation and less sense of purpose, your IQ also goes down.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: So this lack of father involvement that you keep referencing, is that mostly because our families are not as intact as they used to be, or is there something else that’s happening even in intact families?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Well, first of all, it mostly happens in non-intact families and particularly non-intact families where there’s a lack of father involvement or what I call dad deprivation. So, for example, if the parents get a divorce and they have children that see their mother and father about equally — if they have four things after divorce, then children don’t do as badly. They do almost as well as an intact family. Those four things are an equal amount of time with mom and dad. Number two, dad and mom living within about 20 minutes’ drive time of each other so the children don’t resent the father or the mother that’s living far away and they have to give up their soccer practice or going to their best friend’s birthday party. Number three, that they don’t detect any bad mouthing from dad to mom or mom to dad, and, number four, that the parents are involved in consistent couples communication counseling, not just emergency counseling. In consistent counseling, there’s an opportunity for each parent to see the best intent of the other parent and the value of dad, say, roughhousing and having the kids take risks and the value of mom doing, usually, more protecting.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: Let’s talk about the suicide rate among — young boys, I believe, is where we’re really seeing some issues.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Yes.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: This has been going on for quite some time, and when I mention that to people, they’re surprised at that. They can’t believe that boys’ rate of suicide is so much higher. Why do you think that is, and why do you think we are not talking about it?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: First of all, to support your point that it is, when boys and girls are nine, they rarely commit suicide, and they commit suicide exactly equally. Between the ages of 10 and 14, boys commit suicide twice the rate of girls, between the ages of 15 and 19, four times the rate of girls, and between the ages of 20 and 24, five times the rate of girls. That’s sort of the overall picture.
Now, why? An example: boys in college. 75 percent of the people in college who report suicidal ideations to a psychologist on the college campus are female, but 75 percent of the people that commit suicide in colleges, those same colleges, are male. And so what’s happening there is that males are programmed and socialized to repress their feelings. Females are programmed and socialized to express their feelings. Females are far more likely — let’s say there’s a break-up in a relationship. They’ll talk to their girlfriends about it. Other girls will be supportive and say, yes, don’t worry, sweetie, you’re going to be fine. By the time the girls are finished, she feels like she’s made the right decision. Guys talk to their guy friends about it, and they get about a two- or three-minute window of opportunity. The guys are more likely to say, well, what did you do wrong? And then after about two to three minutes, the topic is changed to something else, and the boys don’t feel heard so they start keeping their feelings inside of themselves. Boys who commit suicide are far more likely to feel that nobody loves them, that nobody needs them, that there’s no hope of that changing, and if there is somebody that loves them and needs them and respects them, that if they share their feelings and their fears to those people that feel that way, they will lose the respect of those people. And so when I did the research for The Boy Crisis, I ended up coming up with 63 red flags of potential depression or suicide that boys are more prone to. Many of those overlap with girls, but about 40 out of those 63 are much more prone for boys to be vulnerable to.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: So is this what you mean by boys and men seeing themselves as disposable, or are you talking about something different there?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: What I just described is a result of our seeing ourselves as disposable. For example, every generation has its war, and during that war the males are told, at some level, Uncle Sam needs you to fight to make sure Hitler doesn’t take over the nation, for example. And so boys are given a social prize like being told you’ll be a hero if you fight in that war, and they’re also told you’re needed to fight in that war. So in Ukraine, for example, every single male between the ages of 18 and 60 has to stay in the Ukraine. They’re not allowed to leave the Ukraine, but all the females are allowed to leave the Ukraine to the degree that they can do so under the circumstances.
So males all over the world have learned that when there is a war that we’re needed to be potentially disposable, and our disposability is our function. And the purpose of that disposability is to make sure that other people survive while we are willing to die. The other area of disposability that still exists today is that even today 93 percent of the people that are killed in hazardous jobs are males. And so the more hazardous the job is, the more likely the male is to be the predominant gender in that job. And they feel disposable in that way on the construction site. And yet almost all of the safety provisions on construction sites were developed as a result of a female being hurt.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: I’m hearing some things about what we can do about this. You mentioned your 63 red flags, which you’ve written about. I’m hearing encourage our boys to express feelings. You also mention that family dinner night, which is something we’ve heard for many years, is still a very important tool for our sons.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Family dinner night is crucial. However, as I looked into it, it’s far more effective when families know how to prevent family dinner nights from becoming family dinner nightmares, and many parents have told me we started a family dinner night but I couldn’t even get it started because the kids were saying they wanted to bring their electronics to the table. And they were looking at their electronics while we were trying to conduct a family dinner night.
When I did The Boy Crisis book, there were just dozens of areas where family dinner nights would have been really effective areas of having deep discussions about every controversial topic you can think of, but many parents didn’t know how to actually bring that about. So one of the things is making sure that you know how to enforce boundaries to say, “Okay, we’re having family dinner night one night a week. On that one night, there will be no electronics at the table.” “Oh, Dad, I want to have electronics at the table.” “You can have electronics at the table if you want them taken away from you by me, and they’ll be returned to you the following morning.” The first step in family dinner nights not becoming family dinner nightmares is to make sure the parents are parents, not that the children are setting the parameters.
Number two is to make sure that everybody is listened to, and the way that we make sure everybody is listened to is, first, we rotate topics. Different family members can choose a different topic each week, and then, secondly, when one person speaks up about what their opinion or perspective is on that topic that somebody else or the rest of the group, the family, together shares what they heard that person say until the person who shared that feels that they were 100 percent undistorted, that nothing was missed, and that they are invited to add something that they feel is necessary within a time limit. Then when that person is satisfied, you move on to person number two.
You’re teaching everybody in the family to know how to listen so effectively to each other that each family member feels completely heard. And this is very important because parents oftentimes do that really well for their children, but they don’t oftentimes require their children to do that very well for them. And when empathy only goes one way, the children who are only empathized with but don’t learn how to be empathetic to their parents’ perspective or their brother’s and sister’s perspective don’t become empathetic themselves. And if empathetic parents do not create empathetic children, if the empathy only goes one way, they produce self-centered children who think all the feelings that the children have, that they have, are important, but they don’t even think about the feelings and fears that the parents have.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: We could go on and on because you have all kinds of information. You’ve done this for a really long time. You’ve written a lot of books. So tell us where our listeners can go to get this book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, but also see all of the other resources that you would have for us.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: The other resources are on my website, which is WarrenFarrell.com, and the Farrell is F-a-r-r-e-l-l. Since Will Ferrell has become a lot more famous than I, many people spell it with an F-e. He’s funnier than I am.
TRACE DEVETTE GRIGGS: Dr. Warren Farrell, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Family policy does matter, and so thank you for putting much of your life into making sure that people know that.
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