Both boys and girls have issues but boys are  getting a raw deal, according to Judith Kleinfeld, professor of psychology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the US.

It's commonplace to hear about gender-specific issues involving girls but when there are concerns about issues primarily affecting boys, responses tend to veer toward sexism.  Issues impacting boys have been neglected by policy makers, she says. Her review of issues characterizing American boyhood, how they compare to those affecting girls, and the lack of initiatives in place to address them was published in the June issue of Springer's journal Gender Issues.

Kleinfeld reviews the different viewpoints surrounding the debated existence of a so-called 'boy crisis'. She then looks at gender differences in measures of educational achievement including literacy levels, college entrance tests, school grades, engagement in schools, dropout rates, as well as psychological issues affecting young people including mental health, suicide, depression and conduct disorders.

Lastly, she shows how boys and girls compare in terms of premature death and injuries and rates of delinquency and arrests.

According to Kleinfeld, boys get the raw deal. Compared with girls, American boys have lower rates of literacy, lower grades and engagement in school, higher drop-out from school, and dramatically higher rates of suicide, premature death, injuries, and arrests. Boys are also placed more often in special education.

Girls are more likely to have different problems including depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, which get more attention and she argues that there have been numerous federal, state, school district, and foundation programs aimed at addressing issues faced by girls, led in part by the strong feminist movement, but the same cannot be said for the problems encountered by boys. In her view, they have been largely neglected.

Kleinfeld concludes, "In terms of policy discussion and educational investments, the nation is addressing gender differences which barely exist but ignoring gender gaps which are substantial. Policy attention has focused on the supposed underachievement of females in mathematics and science but these gender gaps are small. In contrast, substantial gender gaps are occurring in reading and writing which place males at a serious disadvantage in the employment market and in college…. Both boys and girls face gendered problems which need policy attention." 

Article:  Kleinfeld J (2009). The state of American boyhood. Gender Issues. DOI 10.1007/s12147-009-9074-z