The popular image of young men as hoodie-wearing yobs with Asbos is unrepresentative, a report says.
Young men suffer from negative stereotyping, report says
Researchers for the Army who questioned almost 1,000 men aged 16-24 said they had "surprisingly traditional values".
Protecting their family and hard work came top of a list of what they thought defined a real man.
Army recruiter Andrew Jackson said society "misjudged" young men. "There is a generation out there with huge potential," he said.
The survey was carried out by research group Prescient between December 2005 and January 2006.
Researchers questioned young men across the UK with focus groups in London, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.
They found "family values" were uppermost in the surveyed group with 56% saying protecting their family was what defined a real man, followed by self-respect (48%).
Most rejected "celebrity culture" with 51% saying family was the most important influence on their values and beliefs.
They demonstrated a high desire to achieve with 84% of those questioned saying they wanted to be able to "look back on their lives and be proud".
Patriotic traits were evident, with 61% saying they would be prepared to fight for their country.
But the survey suggested there were not many "new men" among the Army's principal target group.
Only 20% were concerned about putting an effort into their appearance and just 15% believed men needed to be in touch with their emotions.
More than 80% admitted to "living for the moment" with their most important aim being to "earn enough to enjoy myself" and almost a fifth said they did not feel in control of their lives.
The Army's Andrew Jackson said the survey results showed young men were in need of something to "unlock their potential".
"They have more choice now than ever but without the guidance, care and structure they need to make the most of this they find themselves increasingly lost," Mr Jackson said.