In trying to understand behavior, there is no single, agreed-upon viewpoint for every human action and reaction (and considering the vast diversity that surrounds our single species, there may never be). What we have at our fingertips to use today in our attempts to make our lives better while living inside particular contexts is often the result of multiple, painstaking scientific investigations, but that can change depending on the environments we live in, the current tools that are available to use in the investigative process, the information itself that is used to drive the investigation, and, of course, the information that is ultimately produced. So, it should not come as a surprise to know, for example, that different behavioral classification systems may be used around the world to identify disorders, identify their potential cause(s), make diagnoses, and prescribe treatments.
In the United States, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is usually described as a persistent pattern of heightened attention deficit and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that appears to be more severe than is characteristic of individuals at a comparable level of development. While clinicians in the U.S. may view ADHD as a disorder rooted in biology (and therefore will treat it with biological stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall), those in other countries using a different classification system may see it as one with psychosocial and situational underpinnings (and therefore will attempt to treat the underlying social-contextual problem with psychological therapy, or psychotherapy).
Although studies have shown that children’s displays of disobedient, disorderly behaviors do not automatically equate to a diagnosis of ADHD, general information about the disorder seems to have come at a bad time, particularly in the U.S., where a hornets nest already hangs precariously inside district-level education. It may not necessarily be one in other countries, but before ADHD became a prevalent issue in education inside the United States, there were other issues already in place that strained and bogged down system efficiency. Parents and teachers have been trying to work together for years to achieve greater results, but their seemingly constant finger-pointing as the favored tactic (especially regarding children’s behavioral issues) has caused them not to achieve a fully unified approach—let alone implement it.
Aside from scientists and clinicians, there are people who believe that the pathologizing of children’s behaviors has become rampant, and that many adjustment problems can be corrected simply with the right kind of discipline and parenting/teacher practices. Conversely, others believe ADHD certainly to be worthy of diagnosis and treatment, but they usually “cherry pick” information to validate their own perceptions of it, and end up not fully understanding the actual science behind the disorder, let alone considering the real implications it has for the sufferers.
Even though ADHD is rigorously studied and monitored clinically, it is still poorly understood by most people, and such a low level of understanding, especially when coupled with personal bias, will only help to create more conjecture concerning children’s behaviors and the expectations that adults have for them.
Considering the pervasiveness of ADHD (especially in countries such as the United States) and how it difficult that it must be for parents/guardians whose children have been diagnosed with it, how can you–as a student of psychological science–educate others about the disorder and any issues/potential issues that surround it, and do so without inadvertently continuing to label and stigmatize the sufferers?
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