Pharmaceutisch Weekblad

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 107–111 | Cite as

The symbolic role of drugs in the socialization of illness behaviour among Swedish children

  • L. Sachs
Preliminary Reports


Medicine is never a neutral agent in people's lives. Children may get introduced to the use of drugs either in relation to more or less dramatic situations when they feel ill or for the sake of staying healthy, as when they are given vitamins or other health-promoting preparations. Whether and how the drugs children use when ill, has something to do with the process of socialization of illness behaviour is the question on which this paper is focused. The aim of the study is to see whether Swedish children at the age of 6–7 years can give a description that makes it possible to visualize how such a socialization goes on. It transpired that drug use has an important role in the socialization of illness behaviour among these children. They clearly show in drawings as well as in their words, the ‘gatekeeping’ role of their parents. They also show that drugs are used in the healing process, given to them by their parents. How they have learned what message this is supposed to give is a result of their continuous socialization of illness behaviour. The relationship between the notion of the sweet drug that parents give and the notion of a cosy illness episode on the one hand and that of drugs as normalizing fenomena which heal an illness more quickly than if it were not treated is discussed. How children are socialized into ways of behaving when feeling uneasy has obviously to do with the use of drugs as they may manipulate illness episodes to fit into a pattern of life, social relationships and family structure.


Children Drugs Sick role Socialization 


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Copyright information

© Royal Dutch Association for Advancement of Pharmacy 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Sachs
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of International Health Care ResearchKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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