Growing Number of Young Men ‘Failing to Launch’

Warning signs parents should look for, and programs that can help

ARA Created: November 3, 2011 Last Updated: November 3, 2011
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Compulsive use of video games and/or Internet and showing no desire for interpersonal socialization may be a warning a young man is 'failing to launch.' (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Compulsive use of video games and/or Internet and showing no desire for interpersonal socialization may be a warning a young man is 'failing to launch.' (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Financing college, starting a career, and becoming a self-sufficient member of society—these are just a few of the milestones most early 20-somethings strive to achieve today. Meanwhile, roadblocks such as the current economic downturn make these tasks more difficult to accomplish than ever, and seemingly impossible for some.

A dramatic influx in the number of today’s young people struggling to gain independence has led to many being labeled as “boomerang kids.” In many cases, especially with young adult men, the problem is even more severe.

According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Boys Project, a national “failure to launch” epidemic is impacting today’s young males, ages 18 to 25, at increasing rates.

Those affected are struggling with issues deeper than a tough job market or general adolescent lack of motivation. They are overwhelmed and underprepared for the responsibilities of early adult life, often living with depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, and dependence issues. Many have attempted college, employment, or independent living, and failed. Some haven’t tried at all.

Researchers agree that several factors contribute to the much higher incidence of “failure to launch” in males than females. These include outdated conceptions of masculinity that leave boys lacking the interpersonal skills needed to thrive within the modern education and employment landscape. Additionally, the high number of single mothers in today’s society also may isolate boys from productive male role models, and an increase in Internet and video game usage detaches males from social settings.

While “failure to launch” has become increasingly widespread in the past couple of years, few solutions are available. Many affected young men have tried conventional treatment programs, including wilderness or therapeutic schools and rehab, but these programs typically only address a portion of the problem. They do not provide the life skills necessary to transition successfully back into independence.

Health and wellness industry expert Joseph DeNucci created a more comprehensive solution—a program called Insight Intensive at Gold Lake. DeNucci is widely known for his work in developing integrated health and wellness programs for companies including Sierra Tucson Treatment Center, Miraval and Duke University Center for Integrative Medicine.

“With so many young men currently living at home and unemployed, it can be difficult for parents to determine whether their son is simply another victim of the economy, experiencing a normal adolescent lack of motivation, or ‘failing to launch,’” DeNucci says.

He advises the following may be some key warning signs for parents to look for if they’re concerned their sons may be the latter:

- Compulsive use of video games and/or Internet, playing for hours a day, and showing no desire for interpersonal socialization.

- Using and abusing various drugs, including prescription medications, creating negative consequences and showing little to no desire to seek treatment or stop.

- An attempt at higher education or employment, only to quit shortly afterward without reason and with no plans to return.

- Signs of depression, anxiety, and being overwhelmed, with little to no competence, confidence, clarity, and no motivation to change.

Parents searching for solutions may find help in Insight Intensive, a short-term residential program that uses an integrated approach to help young men strive for adulthood. Clinical services, health and wellness, mentoring, coaching and life-skills training, recovery support, and customized academic or vocational preparation have proven successful in the program.

“Thousands of young men are reaching adulthood completely unprepared for its responsibilities and demands,” DeNucci says. “They’ve tried other programs that rarely address the entirety of the problem. That’s where Insight Intensive comes in.”


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