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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Young Males: The Medicalization of Boyhood?

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Men’s Issues and Men’s Mental Health

Abstract

Evidence suggests that boys have a much higher prevalence of ADHD than girls at a rate of around 3:1, with rates of ADHD rising steadily in recent decades, especially in the USA. Several risk factors for ADHD in boys have been identified including: (i) middle-childhood age; (ii) childhood maltreatment and abuse; (iii) low family income; (iv) low parental education; and (v) living with a single parent (typically a single mother). Moreover, boys with ADHD are more likely to be prescribed medication than girls with ADHD, and boys are more likely to experience adverse educational outcomes such as suspension and expulsion. This male preponderance has led some scholars to argue that ADHD is overdiagnosed in boys, with some even suggesting that ADHD is not a valid construct, and instead simply the relabelling of boisterous and spirited behaviour, especially in boys. This critique centres on the sociological concept of medicalization, with arguments suggesting that ADHD medication is used inappropriately as a form of social control. Arguments for such a medicalization of boyhood are advanced with reference to five vested interest groups: (i) an expansionist psychiatric industry; (ii) profit-driven ‘Big Pharma’; (iii) overwhelmed mothers; (iv) frustrated teachers; and (v) some affected youth.

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Whitley, R. (2021). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Young Males: The Medicalization of Boyhood?. In: Men’s Issues and Men’s Mental Health. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86320-3_4

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