Among the links at Instapundit discussing Kay S Hymowitz's book Manning Up; How The Women's Movement Has Turned Men Into Boys and her WSJ article this weekend "Where Have All The Good Men Gone?" was one to The Art of Manliness site, a personal favorite of mine. An excellent short take on the topic.
The topic of boys becoming men, and whether particular individuals are on schedule, has occupied much of my thought these past 30+ years, especially the last 10 (and the next 5, I'll bet), and I have shared the worrying concern that the grim statistics reveal. Yet might I mention that because of the boys and their friends, I have also had a fair bit of exposure to young women, and their behavior is uh, not uniformly encouraging either. Apparently it is impolite to mention this.
Also, any reading of history suggests that young men and young women have always presented much the same difficulty. There is a narrative, much beloved of sentimentalists and conservatives - I'm not implying any particular correlation there; it might be negative - that in the Good Old Days young people knew that life was hard and grew up quickly, taking responsibility for repairing the pigs or darning the buckboard or whatever, so that papa and mama would be able to work 30 hours a day at the vegetable mines and make some money.
This is certainly true in comparison to the present day, for if there is anything we know about history, it is that people mostly starved, were exploited, and died young. Working hard was not a matter of good character, but mere survival. But most of the stories today of folks remembering their own childhood and the stories of their parent's are subject to selective bias. People who became successful enough to write for a national audience, remembering themselves and their circle, portray a society of industrious, responsible young people - not like you slacking whippersnappers today, dammit.
But the historical record is also full of bastardy and abandonment, murder, robbery - all those things mentioned in the folk songs, actually.
Well, I do social histories on people as part of my job and have been doing so for thirty years. A psychiatric facility is very much a restricted sample of another sort, but not so much as you'd think. There have been 18,000 separate individuals admitted to our facility over that time, and we get a fair bit of information about their families as well. So perhaps 5% of the population have something of themselves in our records - which is part of why confidentiality is such a big deal to us. That 5% is certainly slanted toward those homes your mother wouldn't let you visit, which had forgotten until I just reminded you, but we also know a fair bit about the dark underside of some of the prominent attorneys, physicians, college professors, business owners, and other respectable people. And I don't just mean that they happened to have a child or a spouse who hit a bad patch in the genetic lottery and have some sad condition. The full display of incest, violence, addiction, and criminality of even the elite runs through our histories.
From those data bases, let me assure you that youthful irresponsibility, in more than a Disney sense of stealing muskmelons or putting glue on Miss McDonald's chair, is not confined to the present age. Nor is it confined to young men. Women may have some different pathologies - perhaps, sadly, complementary pathologies - but they can be just as damaging.
I sometimes point out that the most economical explanation of societal change since the 1950's is that teenagers had discretionary income for the first time in history. Most pathologies could be at least theoretically explained by that - even the sexual ones. And we note that the few individuals in history who also had discretionary income as teenagers acted just about as irresponsibly as anyone we've got now. When I consider the lives of my grandfathers, I doubt I could endure it. Yet clearly, I could have. There is nothing they had genetically that I don't have. The need brings such responsibilities forth.
Which suggests the lack of need suppresses them as less necessary, but they are there if the need arises.