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The Gender Gap in Education: Understanding Educational Underachievement in Young Males and Its Relationship to Adverse Mental Health

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Men’s Issues and Men’s Mental Health

Abstract

Evidence suggests that boys are performing significantly worse than girls at all levels of education. First, boys tend to have high rates of school dropout, detention, and exclusion in primary and secondary school. Second, males tend to perform worse than females in basic literacy tests, high-school exams, and other common measures of educational attainment. Third, young men have lower rates of enrollment in tertiary education and higher rates of postsecondary dropout. Importantly, research indicates that these educational deficits can contribute toward adverse mental health outcomes such as suicide and substance abuse. Of note, the literature indicates that low educational attainment has a more severe and intense impact on the mental health of males compared with females and may contribute to high levels of loneliness and failure to launch in young men. Importantly, some scholars have questioned whether the nature and formation of the educational system is sensitive to male students, while noting that male underperformance is rarely a policy priority at any level of education. This is concerning, as education is a distal yet modifiable risk factor for men’s mental health, meaning a clear need for renewed policies, interventions, and programs to help males in their educational journey.

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Whitley, R. (2021). The Gender Gap in Education: Understanding Educational Underachievement in Young Males and Its Relationship to Adverse Mental Health. In: Men’s Issues and Men’s Mental Health. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86320-3_7

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