Founder’s Corner: Dr. Joe McIlhaney: Happy New Year – Updated Hooked Book

The Medical Institute’s groundbreaking book Hooked was originally published in 2008, just over ten years ago. I say groundbreaking because it was the first national publication clearly explaining in lay language the neuroscientific studies of the adolescent brain that had been gradually finding their way into reliable scientific literature. Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children showed how the new understanding of the adolescent brain provided very practical information for guiding our young people to better behavior choices.  The focus of Hooked was on the effect of sex on the adolescent brain. But the research we discussed in the book provided some fundamental understanding of the adolescent brain that could be applied in many different areas of child development.  For example, we showed clearly, from very reliable studies, that the adolescent brain is not fully developed physically in the area of the frontal lobes until the mid-20s. The significance of this is that the ability of an individual to make mature judgment decisions, to control impulses, to see where an action today might lead tomorrow—all this cognitive thought comes from the frontal cortex.  And that portion of the brain is not completely mature till somewhere around age 25.  Young people are often highly intelligent and physically totally mature, but they still do not have cognitive maturity till their mid-20s.  This is commonly known now but was information that burst on the scene with power and force ten years ago.  Other information was made clear, as well.  It had been known for a short period of time that behavior physically changes the brain.  What I do today can put “creases” in my brain that make it easier for me to do that same behavior again and again.  This is especially true for “strong” behavior input such as sexual intercourse.  This brain pattern is good for marriage but can lead to multiple sexual partnering for an unmarried teen. They may think their repeated behavior is a mere choice when indeed it may be from “habitual” behavior because their brain has been molded to make that choice again and again. There were other important topics that the original version of Hooked made clear and useful for those involved with young people such as parents, educators and even for older adolescents and young adults.

We are so happy to announce with this January Newsletter, the publication of an updated and revised version of Hooked.  We have been working on this new Hooked for over a year. This project has been a major undertaking for us.  Marilyn Henderson, Director of Science, bore the brunt of the revision, particularly the updated references.  Dr. Bush and I worked carefully with her and her Science Assistant, Tya Johnson.  Then overseeing the project’s organization, Amy Campbell kept the project on track. Northfield editor Kevin Emmert was a grand supporter of the project from its inception and it would not have happened without him.

The question about why an update would be helpful is obvious. Science is interesting.  Often scientists don’t know what the outcome of their research may be. So, it was with this project.  I will point out three things that startled me, and that I think will make acquiring this new book important.  The first was that the newest research into the functioning of the brain confirmed, indeed strengthened, the reporting of brain function of the edition ten years ago.  We did not have to eliminate any significant finding we reported in Hooked back then.  We found abundant data to support what we wrote.  If a person reading this is one who purchased the original Hooked and used it for example in education classes, they may want to acquire this new version for the updated references and for reaffirming the teaching they may be doing from that original version.

The second startling issue we faced was writing about the sudden explosion of pornography in the sexual world of our young people.  For example, one reliable study says that 64% of young people are seeking out pornography weekly.  And the data is showing that pornography is extremely addicting, especially for adolescents.  The newest data supports the fact that if one is addicted to porn and they marry, their marriage is usually threatened by disharmony, disagreement about sexual activity with their spouse, and more likelihood of divorce ultimately. We realized as we were finalizing our manuscript that we had to include some of this information to be thorough about adolescent sexuality and their brains.

The most startling realization we came to as we studied the science about adolescent sexual activity and the brain was how much sexual attitudes had changed, for the worse, in the past ten years. Ten years ago, our revelation that individuals who had experienced multiple sexual partners were more likely to divorce when they did marry seemed to be accepted by young people, parents and society as a significant danger.  Today, with the data even more strongly showing the truth of that risk, the message seems to be received with a “ho-hum” attitude.  Ten years ago, the risk of sexually transmitted disease which we pointed out in Hooked seemed to be accepted as a real danger to young people’s future health.  The data clearly showed that then and even more so now.  For example, HPV is causing a near epidemic of oro-pharyngeal cancers from oral sex.  Yet today, there seems to be a casual attitude toward these terrible diseases including the risk of HIV/AIDS (all one needs to do is take drugs. Right? Wrong) Back then, there seemed to be some sense of rightness or wrongness of going from one sexual partner to another.  Today, our research suggested that that is the expected norm for young, unmarried people today.  The attitude today seems to be that no one will be married till older and they cannot be expected to remain abstinent until that later marriage.  So, I think it is this casual sex with anyone, at anytime being the expected and accepted lifestyle that has so changed from a more cautious attitude toward sexual involvement that surprised me in our research.  May I add, the risks physically and emotionally have not changed.  STDs are at epidemic levels.  There are approximately 6,000 Americans dying each year of HIV/AIDS. Divorce is rampant among those who are addicted to porn, and it is common among those who entered marriage having had multiple partners before marriage. Many youths will spend years in a home with one parent because of non-marital childbearing and divorce.  There are lots of brave and good single parents, but the data is clear that they don’t have as good a chance of success in life as those raised by two parents.

Bottom line, you need this new book just to understand today’s changing culture. Buy it, read it. You will be glad you did.  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a youth leader or an older adolescent or young adult yourself you need this book.  You will learn a lot, and others will benefit because of your updated knowledge and understanding

2 Responses to “Founder’s Corner: Dr. Joe McIlhaney: Happy New Year – Updated Hooked Book”

  1. Cynthia L Janczyk

    THANK YOU! All your hard work will be useful to the SRA educators on the field. I truly appreciate your bold effort to expose the harmful industry of pornography and I look forward to reading it.