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Hidden Diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from a Child's Perspective

Sociology of Diagnosis

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

Publication date: 3 August 2011


Purpose – The aim of this study was to examine the retrospective accounts of young adults who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood to explore how children diagnosed with ADHD learn about and experience their diagnoses.

Methodology – Ten 18–22 year-olds who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. The interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded, and emergent themes were identified.

Findings – Data analysis revealed that children often experience both aspects of stigma and empowerment as they learn about and make sense of their diagnoses. The data suggest that parents, who often act as mediators between the medical community and their children, delivering and explaining diagnoses to their children, can influence this process greatly. Parents can help children utilize their diagnoses to develop coping strategies for their disorder, or exacerbate stigma by withholding information about diagnoses. Participants suggested that parents should talk openly about diagnoses with children and offer coping strategies to employ.

Research limitations – Findings are based on retrospective accounts, and the participants' views are not intended to be representative of the views of all children with ADHD. A goal of future research is to expand this study to other pools of participants, including children.

Practical implications – The findings can inform the delivery and management of children's ADHD diagnoses.

Originality/value – The current study adds to research on the sociology of diagnosis and medicalization of mental health by examining the experiences of children diagnosed with ADHD.



Bringewatt, E.H. (2011), "Hidden Diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from a Child's Perspective", McGann, P. and Hutson, D.J. (Ed.) Sociology of Diagnosis (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 259-279.



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