ADHD: A Culturally Constructed Illness Research Paper

ADHD: A Culturally Constructed Illness
An examination of the evidence that supports ADHD as a cultural construct rather than mental illness.
# 118372 | 1,844 words | 9 sources | MLA | 2009 | US
Published on Jan 26, 2010 in Psychology (Child and Adolescent) , Psychology (Disorders) , Sociology (General)

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This paper looks at the continuing disagreement about the validity of ADHD as an actual mental disorder. It examines how proponents of ADHD argue that the existence of ADHD in multiple cultures proves its status as a valid mental disorder. In contrast, opponents claim that there is actually little evidence of ADHD in non western cultures, there is no scientific basis for its existence as a disorder, and it is another example of the medicalization of society - in this case specifically the medicalization of childhood. Through an analysis of evidence from both sides of the disagreement, the paper concludes that ADHD is, in fact, a socially constructed illness.

From the Paper:

"The diagnosis of hyperactivity as a mental disorder is a very modern and, ultimately, unsupported concept. In the 1950's, ADHD simply did not exist. Then in the 1970's approximately 2,000 children, mostly boys, were diagnosed as hyperactive and treated with behavior modification techniques. Now, the number of children suffering from ADHD has reached the millions (2007: Stolzer 109). Although the prevalence of ADHD in America has increased exponentially, both scientific support and assessment tools for ADHD remain insufficient. According to Stolzer, "there are no physiological, cognitive, or metabolic markers that would indicate the presence of ADHD"(2007: 111). Therefore, instead of being diagnosed using American's state of the art medical equipment, "ADHD is diagnosed using a checklist of behaviors" (2007: Stolzer 111). The checklists for ADHD are largely incredible for they rely on generalized and undefined terms such as "running and climbing excessively" and there is no system for regulating the status of the reader (usually a parent or teacher) (2007: Stolzer 111)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Anderson, Jessie C. "Is Childhood Hyperactivity the Product of Western Culture?" The Lancet Vol 348 July 13, 1996.
  • Castillo, Richard J. Culture and Mental Illness: A client-centered approach. Brooks/Cole: CA, 1996.
  • Gaines, Atwood. "From DSM-I to III-R; Voices of Self, Mastery and the Other: A Cultural Constructivist Reading of U.S. Psychiatric Classification" University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  • Goode, Erich. Deviant Behavior. Prentice Hall: New Jersey.
  • Nelson, Jason M., Anne N. Rinn, D. Niall Hartnett. "The Possibility of Misdiagnosis of Giftedness and ADHD Still Exists" Roeper Review Summer 2006, Vol 28, No. 4, 243-248.

Cite this Research Paper:

APA Format

ADHD: A Culturally Constructed Illness (2010, January 26) Retrieved October 07, 2022, from

MLA Format

"ADHD: A Culturally Constructed Illness" 26 January 2010. Web. 07 October. 2022. <>