Reading Disorders of Inattention and Hyperactivity: A Normalization Project

  • Author / Creator
    Bowden, Gregory J.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in children. It and its antecedents have received sociological focus since the 1970s, in studies of how diagnosis and subsequent interventions serve to manage deviant behaviours, as well as accounting for experiences of a diagnosis whose legitimacy has been consistently questioned. Taking methodological cues from Michel Foucault’s exploratory endeavours, this dissertation aims to provide some clarity on sociological conceptions of disorders of inattention and hyperactivity and their relationship to other authoritative claims about such disorders. Sociological explanations of these disorders remain in tension with claims from clinical research about these disorders as objective entities as well as with skeptical claims from popular literature which deny the existence and legitimacy of such disorders. Relying on English-language textual material from the NEOS Library Consortium, focusing on the period 1970 2005, this research examines a deep and broad corpus of statements made about such disorders. By providing a close reading of programmatic texts, and by engaging in critical reflection on their entangled use of descriptive, evaluative, and prescriptive claims, this work obtains some conceptual clarity about descriptions of the mechanisms which pathologize measurable differences among individuals. This work also provides some clarity on what sorts of sociological objects disorders of inattention and hyperactivity might be. Invoking work in the philosophy of health and illness, it concludes that one can grant the existence of disorders of inattention and hyperactivity, but on the grounds that disorder is a social fact and not reducible to physiological explanations. Furthermore, the discursive analysis provided is additional evidence in support of the claim that medicine is an institution of socialization. Treatments for these disorder aim at establishing proper behavior through the individualization of conduct. Alongside any direct manipulation of bodies and minds which occur, interventions for these disorders constitute power relations as Foucault described: the modification of the behavior of others at a distance. The goal of interventions is to modify the behavior of others at the same time as making them responsible for that altered behavior, consequently integrating them into a political economy of rule following.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Barbour, Charles (University of Western Sydney/Adjunct Sociology)
    • Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Barbour, Charles (University of Western Sydney/Adjunct Sociology)
    • Harwood, Valerie (University of Wollongong, Australia)
    • Markula-Denison, Pirkko (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Krahn, Harvey (Sociology)
    • Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
    • Pavlich, George (Assoc. VP Research/Sociology)