Parents Must Hold Boys Accountable, Psychologist Says | St. Louis Public Radio

Parents Must Hold Boys Accountable, Psychologist Says

Aug 13, 2014

Wes Crenshaw
Credit Courtesy of Wes Crenshaw

If there’s a gender war, the girls are winning, says psychologist Wes Crenshaw.

“Right now, to be a young white female is to be in a cohort of highly competitive applicants to just about any advanced program that there is,” Crenshaw said.

Women outnumber and outperform men in college. In middle and high school, girls also get better grades than boys. Crenshaw says these performance differences can be traced back to how children are raised, and the distractions they face.

“Young men are raised differently than young women,” he said. “Young women are the daughters and granddaughters of feminism, whether they identify themselves that way or not. They are taught from birth that they either better get up and take care of business, or they’re going to be stuck in the ditch with some guy taking care of them. And this horrifies girls.

“Boys are raised, particularly white boys, are raised in a model of civilization that says they are entitled.”

Crenshaw believes using the lessons of the feminist movement will help.

“I think we have got to get serious about holding boys accountable and telling them this sort of apocalyptic message ‘If you don’t get up and do it, you’re doomed,’” he said. “We have to basically say to them ‘You gotta try harder.’ This is a cultural message they’re not getting.”

Video Games And Distractions

Crenshaw said one of the biggest distractions for boys now is video games.

“There’s unlimited gaming, and gaming is all give and no take,” he said. “There's nothing anybody has to do there except consume it.”

Crenshaw believes video games are teaching a “lack of reciprocity,” which spills over into other areas like relationships.

“When you believe the world operates without you having to trade with the world … you come to believe that stuff’s going to be handed to you,” he said.

Crenshaw said this mentality is why more 20-somethings are still living at home with their parents. He also cited marijuana use and online pornography as distractions that boys do not deal with well.

Maturity And Relationships

“The entire adult generation, I think, has unmatured some in the 25 years I’ve been in graduate school and practicing,” he said. “On average, guys are maturing even later now; adolescence seriously runs well into the mid-20s at this point. Girls seem to be able to handle that a little bit better. They seem to mature more quickly, as they always have, and also culturally become more ready for adulthood and for more coupling at that point than guys do.”

The number of married young adults continues to decline as well. Crenshaw said in the early ’60s, two-thirds of all 20-somethings were married; today that number is about 26 percent.

“Young people have been raised, I think, in a culture of divorce and disposability,” Crenshaw said. “I’m not bagging on divorce — divorce is an important part of our process. But I think kids see relationships as terminable now, more than ever before.”

Crenshaw said teens and 20-somethings are more likely to “hook up” than commit.

“The bigger issue is the idea of the exclusive relationship. That is a minority status at this point,” he said. “I thought I coined the term ‘hook-up culture’ a few years ago, and now that is like a really popular term.”

Crenshaw’s Advice

“I do think we’ve got to start with little kids and work our way up,” Crenshaw said. “For the kids who are already at puberty, you can still make a big difference. For one tiny step to take, put your kid on a budget. Let them learn to earn and spend — just that alone will get you off to a better start.”

Crenshaw said parents may need to require their children to account for how the money is spent, too. He also said adults must set good examples for children.

“Coach kids on how to have a relationship,” he said. “Don’t reinforce the kind of negative behaviors that we see in the dating pool right now.”

For more information, visit Crenshaw’s website,

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.