Medicalised pupils: The case of ADD/ADHD

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Recent decades have seen an increasing number of life's problems conceptualised and interpreted through the prism of disease; among them are those affecting pupils at school. Witness the cases of hyperactivity and deficient attention, so often diagnosed as ADD/ADHD. Research indicates that there is at least some tendency towards overdiagnosis of ADD/ADHD. But what creates the general tendency to excessive medicalisation? This paper takes issue with conservative, existentialist, liberalist and poststructuralist explanations suggesting that some sort of personal or social conspiracy is at work, serving the interests of specifiable social actors or agencies. None of these explanations makes sense of excessive ADD/ADHD labelling in schools. Rather, the roots of excessive medicalisation are best sought in a certain culturally conditioned mindset: the Western liberal conception of a self. Some of the main ingredients of that mindset are explored, along with the self-traps in which the mindset catches us and some ways through which we could endeavour to spring ourselves loose from those traps.

Bibliographic note

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-127
Number of pages17
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009