Little terrors

A 16 June New Scientist piece about children and ADHD talks perfect sense, well, that’s in my opinion – but bear in mind I am never wrong.

The opinion piece is by Dorothy Rowe, entitled Children are not mad or bad, they are just scared .

She makes the point that scared children can easily be diagnosed as having mental illnesseses, because adults don’t see that the kids are just exhibiting fear.

ADHD is not a diagnosis most mature adults face. Children, on the other hand, are being diagnosed with it in their millions. In the US nearly 4 million people, mostly children and young adults, are being prescribed amphetaminelike drugs for ADHD (New Scientist, 1 April 2006, p 8). The number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder has also risen astronomically, according to child psychiatrist Gabrielle Carlson and colleague Joseph Blader at Stony Brook University, New York. They say that while in 1996 just 13 out of every 100,000 children in the US were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, by 2004 the figure had leapt more than fivefold to 73 in 100,000. They also showed that of children diagnosed with a psychiatric condition in 1996, 1 in 10 were bipolar, compared with 4 out of 10 in 2004 (New Scientist, 19 May, p 6).

These are pretty monstrous figures. Children bi-polar, for Freya’s sake? Doesn’t that mean excited at times and miserable at times. As kids are?

I really like this article because the author actually has the face to say a truth that is becoming increasingly rare to hear.

In saying this I have broken a powerful rule: namely, that parents and those in loco parentis must not be criticised. If a child behaves badly, the child is at fault. If she or he can’t be regarded as naughty and be punished, she or he must be mad, and the madness treated with drugs, the effects of which on thedeveloping brain are still largely unknown. ….
Diagnosing children with ADHD or bipolar disorder requires collusion. Parents and doctors must agree the fault is in the child. So parents fail to mention their own economic, social or personal problems, or underplay them, while doctors don’t ask because they lack the skills and resources to help the parents. Thus parents can go on believing they are good parents faced with an inherently flawed child, and doctors that they are good doctors. The child continues to be afraid.

Parents are so scared of being seen as “bad parents” that they become incapable of admitting any failures at all. It takes courage to examine one’s own actions and identify where we might be making mistakes. It is much easier to assume the child is somehow “wrong”. And being “sick” seems so much more modern and tolerant than seeing an angry kid as intrinsically wicked (the Victorian view) – although it has the same effect of invalidating the kid’s experience.

In the mid-twentieth century, it became customary to blame parents for every psychological ill experieneced by their offspring. The (bi-polar style :-D) pendulum has now swung the other way and we seem intent, as a society, on denying all the needs of children and forcing them to fit uncomplaining into the adult-dominated world, as soon as they take their first breath.

It is good to hear someone actually saying that adults are indeed scary to kids. The adult world is scary. The way we ALL behave to our kids is going to frighten them sometimes.

However, some people are truly terrifying. If their kids are confused as a result of realising that, maybe we could start paying a bit of attention.

4 thoughts on “Little terrors

  1. Part of the reason why children are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than before is because doctors used to believe that children were ~never~ bipolar.

    My disease appeared when I was young (about forty years ago). I realized that my moodiness was different from other children, but thanks to my parents, I saw it as a character defect rather than the symptom of an illness that I did not get properly treated until two years ago.

    So I suppose all kids clock back and forth, but some of us have extremes. And I don’t buy that in the mid-Twentieth Century it was all “blame the parent”. My parents and the parents of many other children of the sixties deftly ignored the psychiatrist’s advice and piled plenty of guilt and emotional and physical suffering on the innocents.

    Kids were just as scared back then, if not more so. We didn’t have the array of teachers, social workers and the like looking out for us. We were told that we were “bad kids” if we exhibited symptoms.

    Pundits should watch making rash generalizations, IMHO, especially when they don’t have the full facts before them or want to admit what they actually are.

  2. I suspect you are making my point. I certainly wasn’t harking back to mythical age when parents understood kids etc. That never existed.

    I obviously confused the issue by throwing the (largely irrelevant idea) in that psychiatry and psychology and their pop variants used to usually tend to blame the parents and now blamed the kids.

    Clearly, not everyone subscribed to this idea. Parents who feels guilty will blame the kid if it means not facing up to their part in the kid’s suffering. (That’s everyone’s response to guilt – not just parents) Kids lack the power and confidence to challenge this. They are too scared, among other things susch as – they naturally tend to take their parents as knowing what’s true so are likely to accept their parents’ idea of them as bad or mad..

    Drugging them out of expressing their feelings is just a bad idea. And it seems to store up some real problems for the future.

  3. My disease appeared when I was young (about forty years ago). I realized that my moodiness was different from other children, but thanks to my parents, I saw it as a character defect rather than the symptom of an illness that I did not get properly treated until two years ago.

    This is basically the point Heather and Dorothy Rowe were making.

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