Why are ADHD Rates Rising: Exploring the Feminization of the Classroom

We know ADHD rates are increasing

We find the rate of ADHD increasing by upwards of 10% over the past ten years, and the boy/girl ratio is upwards of 3:1.

Why?

Maybe the rates are rising because practitioners are better at assessing and diagnosing this condition. Or, maybe the condition is actually increasing due to toxins in our environment or some other cause.

Or

I wonder if we’re becoming less tolerant to the types of behaviors typical of boys?

The feminization of our schools, and society

My goal is not to be political, and maybe I’m off-base, unenlightened, and not entirely ‘woke’, but it’s hard not to see a war going-on against boys. I understand that girls have been stereotyped, and that is wrong, but I wonder if the pendulum has swung too far the other way? In that respect, boys seem to get the short-end of the stick across the board. The things that make boys, well, boys, are increasingly seen as negative, punishable, and are prohibited if the behaviors come from boys. Those traits that are seen as masculine are labeled as “toxic” and boys are compelled to be, well, more like girls. Ironically, girls are being taught to be more like boys, which is fine (I guess), so long as boys can also be like boys. When it comes to males, we are averse to anything rough-and-tumble, so to speak, in favor of those things compassionate, sensitive, and nurturing. There are zero-tolerance policies that tend to target boy-like behavior. We tend to avoid males competing or being adventurous. No more “conquering” our world and we don’t confront or have conflict but, instead we hug, and God-forbid we play with toy guns, or even draw a gun, or pretend to be a cowboy, don’t dare draw a picture of a tank blowing something up, no more dodge-ball, and everyone has to win. Instead, we have to sit, pay attention, be quiet and mindful of our manners, and control our impulses for an increasingly longer period of time. It’s a world tailor-made for girls, but not-so-much for boys.

Don’t get me wrong…

I fully appreciate the need for sensitivity regarding guns and weapons given the reality of school shootings. However, I can’t help but think that, at least in some cases, we take that sensitivity to the extreme. Maybe we need to have a sensitivity, as well, that boys need to be permitted to be boys, and not perceive a threat where there isn’t one.

I wonder if this is why boys are dropping out of education?

It’s alarming to look at the graduation rates between males and females. It’s actually a national tragedy that no one seems to care too much about. In that respect, ten percent more females graduate high school than males, and there is almost a 20% disparity between males and females in earning any type of advanced degree (Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate). What’s your best guess as to why this might be the case?

I’m not suggesting…

There is no doubt, in my humble opinion, that ADHD is a genuine disorder and that some kids are well outside the norm in terms of their ability, or lack thereof, to maintain focus, control impulses, and remain settled. However, while that might be the case, in some cases, we may be setting-up boys for failure, not doing them any favors, unfairly targeting them with unrealistic expectations, and straight-up pathologizing typical boy-behavior. At the very least, it may serve us well to at least entertain that possibility.

Need more boy-friendly schools

What type of classroom helps boys to be boys, and achieve? First, let them be active. In that respect, activity-based programs allow for more movement throughout the day, stretch-breaks, use of clipboard with standing, sitting or lying on the floor, high-interest topics (let them choose their own topics), more change of pace in the classroom, teach outside, allow pretend ‘army’ and dodge-ball and gross topics that boys find captivating. Learn by doing, invite men in the classroom, permit choices in assignments and projects, more opportunities for hands-on projects, group-work, experimental learning, collaboration, competition, and creating avenues for boys to reach-out and accept help as opposed to shutting-down or acting-out. An environment such as this would help boys in general, and those with ADHD, to feel more comfortable in a classroom and achieve higher levels of success.

I hope that offers a new perspective

My goal is not to be political or controversial, but instead to help boys perform to their fullest potential. That’s all. Now let’s go out and advocate for these boy-friendly environments, at home, and at school. God bless you and your kids, both boys and girls alike.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).