Article Text

Download PDFPDF
3 Understanding the relief that ADHD diagnoses give parents, and then, ‘the can of worms’
  1. Gloria S Wright
  1. University Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Four in depth case studies of mothers of children diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Australia provides critical insights into the function of diagnoses in alleviating competing tensions for mothers raising young children with behavioural and learning difficulties. The reported initial relief diagnoses brings the mothers implicates particular drivers towards overdiagnosis as mothers actively seek such relief from self and spouse blame. Further, the role of scant subjective screening tests commonly provided to schools by paediatricians and/or psychologists is highlighted as a pivotal factor in questionable ‘evidence’ commonly utilised to justify a medical solution to behavioural and learning difficulties in young children. In this paper, the arising theme of ‘relief’ followed by palpable disappointment in their children ‘having been diagnosed as ADHD’ as experienced by the mothers is explored in the context of the social processes at work in overdiagnosing ADHD. The findings strongly suggest the importance of ‘relief’ as a possible major driver worthy of further exploration in determining the impetus leading to overdiagnoses of ADHD and possibly other conditions relating to mothers and children.

Objectives To explore the experience of mothers actively seeking diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for the problematic children.

Method In depth interviews. Case studies.

Results Rich data from limited numbers provides arising themes of relief followed by deep disappointment of diagnoses while exposing deep flaws in the diagnostic processes employed. Implications point to risk of the overdiagnoses of ADHD.

Conclusions Mothers seeking relief through the achievement of diagnoses were later disappointed because the diagnoses themselves were later seen as having opened a ‘can of worms’ because the diagnoses were later seen as exacerbating the mothers’ problems. Further, the method of obtaining such diagnoses reveals drivers possibly leading to overdiagnosis of ADHD.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.