Are Males More Likely to Have "Failure to Launch"?

Kara Powell | Nov 30, 2011

I’m not a big fan of gender stereotypes. While there is often a small kernel of accuracy underneath them, I think they can often do more harm than good. So I’m not all that likely to make sweeping statements about boys and girls, or men and women.

Yet I was intrigued by this recent article about young adult males potentially being more likely to experience “failure to launch” (a term popularized by a recent movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey).

Here’s a bit of a summary of what some think is happening to our young adult males:

Federal statistics show that young men are, for instance, nearly twice as likely to live at home with their parents than young women their age. They’re also less likely to finish college, or to have a job. The struggling economy has only made things worse.

“We see more failure to launch because there’s less to launch into,” says Joshua Coleman, a psychologist who is the co-chairman of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that tracks trends in American families.

These days, even young men from families with means who get into good schools like those who come to this residential program in the mountains northwest of Boulder are having a hard time getting a foothold.

“They are depressed, anxious, overwhelmed and underprepared,” says Joseph DeNucci, one of the founders of this program, called Insight Intensive at Gold Lake.

He calls it “an epidemic.”

What do you think? Are young men less likely to launch well than young women? If so, why? If not, why not?

Are there unique struggles for boys as they move from adolescence into adulthood? Here’s another quote from the article that asserts there are:

In his book, “Boys Adrift,” Dr. Leonard Sax blames everything from an educational system that he believes is geared more toward girls’ style of learning to video games and online porn that are overtaking the lives of too many boys.

“For many of them, the virtual world has become more enticing than the real world,” says Sax, who’s seeing more young male patients who tell him they prefer online porn to dating women in real life.

We at FYI are becoming bigger and bigger fans of rites of passage - specific traditions that mark the transition from one stage to the next. As Dave and I think about our own 11 year-old son, we’ve enjoyed dreaming about ways we can let him know that he is moving into a more mature stage of life. Whatever rituals we end up pursuing, we will end up involving other adult men because we want him to know that he’s surrounded by other men who are “on his team” and are there for him when he needs them.

What have you done as a parent or leader to help the young adult males around you move intentionally into greater maturity?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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