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.