The number of boys growing up without fathers in their lives has reached epidemic proportions. High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have created a generation of fatherless boys.
The Magnitude of the Epidemic
- One in three children are born to unmarried parents. [i]
- An estimated 24.7 million children do not live with their biological father. [ii]
- 43% of urban teens live away from their father. [iii]
- 42% of fathers fail to see their children at all after divorce. [iv]
- Since 1960 the rate of U.S. boys without fathers has quadrupled. [v]
- 1 in 6 black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, 1 in 3 black males born today will spend time in prison in his lifetime. [vi]
A recent Newsweek article “The Trouble with Boys” states “one of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no.”
- 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [vii]
- 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. [viii]
- 80% of rapists with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. [ix]
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. [x]
- Gang membership increased from 50,000 in 1975 to 1,150,000 in 2008. [xi]
- 90% of homeless children are from fatherless homes. [xii]
- 85% of children with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. [xiii]
- 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [xiv]
- Fatherless boys are 4 times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [xv]
The Financial Cost
- 5% of the adult male population is in or has been in prison, costing taxpayers $75 billion a year. [xvii]
- The prison incarceration rate more than quadrupled since 1975. [xvi]
- A boy leaving high school to enter into a life of crime or drug abuse can cost his community $1.7–$2.3 million in his lifetime. [xviii]
[i]Youthviews, Gallup Youth Survey 4 (June, 1997)
[ii] National Fatherhood Initiative, Father Facts, (3rd Edition): 5
[iii] Youthviews, Gallup Youth Survey 4 (June, 1997)
[iv] Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. and Christine Winguist Nord, “Parenting Apart,” Journal of Marriage and the Family
[v] U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2007. Households and Families, Historical Statistics
[vi] Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. NAACP 2011
[vii] Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992
[viii] National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools
[ix] Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978
[x] US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census
[xi] National Youth Gang Center
[xii] U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census
[xiii] Center for Disease Control
[xiv] Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985
[xv] US D.H.H.S. news release
[xvi] Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? Raphael Goldman School of Public Policy 2008
[xvii] The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration. Schmitt, Warner, Gupta, June 2010
[xviii] Cohen’s The monetary value of saving a high-risk youth, Journal of Quantitative Criminology
The Problem & Middle School Aged Boys
The chart below tracks the quarterly GPA, segmented by achievement level, of 519 students at one San Diego middle school.1
It shows the well documented, and expected GPA gap between middle school boys & girls.
The unexpected and disturbing news: the GPA gap doubled over the school year.
Girls grades went up in all segments. Boys grades went down in all segments.
More disturbing… the gap quadrupled for boys with a GPA under 2.5.
The bottom line is 25% of boys are not succeeding in middle school.
And failure in middle school often means failure in life.
The high school dropout rate for males is 20.3%. 2
High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than graduates to be arrested. 3
5% of the male population is in, or has been in prison. 4
1. Data from 2013/14 school records
2. 2012–13 Graduation and Dropout Statistics Annual Report, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
3. Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003a
4. The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration. Schmitt, Warner, Gupta
The Good News: Boys to Men works, and it works best for boys on THE BOTTOM LINE.
Boys to Men improves the GPA of boys at all academic levels and is most effective in changing the academic trajectory of the lowest achieving, most at-risk boys.
This chart includes 4 years of GPA data from 125 boys in the Boys to Men program at the same middle school.1
The encouraging news is grades of BTM boys went up in all segments.
More encouraging… the grades of BTM boys with a GPA under 2.5 showed a dramatic improvement of 6 tenths of a grade point compared to non BTM boys.
1. Data from 2011/14 school records
What we have learned about “The Problem”
Every day, at every BTM school meeting, we see the devastating personal impact that growing up without a dad has on a teenage boy, and ultimately on his community.
In 20 years of Boys to Men circles, over 7,500 teenage boys have shared the anger, sadness, and confusion they feel from growing up without a good man in their life.
Here’s what we learned from those boys.
Good men are not born. They are built, shaped and molded during their childhood and adolescent years by the adults in their lives. But what if no man is there to teach him, to be his role model, his guide?
The most important factor of whether a boy will thrive or struggle during his teenage years is determined by the quality of the male role models in his life. The most at risk boys have the most dysfunctional male role models.
Whether a boy’s father died, abandoned him or is emotionally unavailable, a teenage boy without a man to guide him will lose his way. Countless statistics document the fact that fatherless boys are far more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs, join gangs or go to prison than boys with fathers.
No boy ever dreams of joining a gang, getting hooked on drugs or going to prison. Behind the macho facade of even the toughest gang member, is a good boy who just needs a man to care about him.
The Problem, our Program and the Impact… in 4 minutes
The Critical Window is Middle School
The average age of first drug use is 13, first alcohol use is 12.
Our experience, gained from 20 years of working with teenage boys, is that every boy wants to be a successful man. That no boy dreams of dropping out of school, going to prison, getting hooked on drugs or joining a gang, YET MILLIONS DO. Here’s Why.
Middle school years are a critical time when a boy’s choices, both conscious and unconscious, begin to form the foundation of the man he will become. Whether a boy’s father died, abandoned him or is emotionally unavailable, a teenage boy beginning his journey to manhood with no man to guide him will likely lose his way. One wrong step followed by another, and another, and soon his dreams begin to fade, and the reality that he must figure out manhood alone sets in. His hope is replaced with despair, his innocence turns to anger.
The longer he is lost and alone, the deeper the wound. The difference between a 13 and 16-year-old boy with no father is shocking. Our middle school groups are full of sweet 12 and 13-year-old boys who cry when they talk of their missing fathers. The high school boys are different. Anger has replaced tears. After 3 years without a man who cares, they stop caring.
Why? Because it hurts too much to care. “Why should I care? Nobody else does.” Without care, all they have left is anger.
That’s why fatherless boys are far more likely than boys with fathers to drop out of school, abuse drugs or alcohol, go to prison or join a gang.
Millions of teenage boys are growing up without a man to guide them through these formative years.
Boys to Men provides these boys with men who show up and care. Not just one man, but a community of male role models who offer the hope, support and guidance boys need to stay on the path to their dreams.
For 20 years we’ve had the privilege of mentoring thousands of wonderful young men at the beginning of their journey to manhood.
We have heard boys moving stories of courage and hope.
We have seen the devastating impact divorce and absent fathers can have on a boys’ spirit.
We have witnessed boys overcome incredible odds, and become loving fathers, husbands and good men.
We have grieved the tragedy of good boys lost to gang violence, suicide and drug abuse.
We know that every boy wants to be a good man, they just need men to show them the way.
We know that all it takes to change a boy’s life, is a few good men, who show up and care.
Every boy deserves this!
We are those men, and we are committed to help boys become the best men they can be.
Please join us on our journey of Hope.