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Diagnosis and Medicalization

Sociology of Diagnosis

ISBN: 978-0-85724-575-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-576-2

Publication date: 3 August 2011


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to theorize the relationship between diagnosis and medicalization through an examination of the medicalization of childhood gender variance and the Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood diagnosis.

Methodology/approach – The chapter examines textual data (published clinical and research literatures, and critiques of the diagnosis appearing in a range of venues) to track how childhood gender variance is medicalized over time and the role of diagnosis in that medicalization.

Findings – While diagnosis certainly plays a role in shoring up medicalization, this case study reveals the many ways in which diagnoses may also become key tools in attempts to curtail medicalization.

Research limitations/implications – As a case study, the findings are not generalizable to all diagnoses. As a study of an instance of the medicalization of deviance, these findings may be particularly applicable to analogous cases.

Social implications – These findings show the sometimes tenuous nature of medicalization processes, and the social uses of diagnoses in those processes.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter sheds light on a relationship that is often assumed to be unidirectional (e.g., that the formation of diagnosis results in increased medicalization), and answers calls for a more nuanced sociology of diagnosis, including greater attention to the relationship between diagnosis and medicalization.



Bryant, K. (2011), "Diagnosis and Medicalization", McGann, P. and Hutson, D.J. (Ed.) Sociology of Diagnosis (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 33-57.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited