The Risk Factors For Psy-Diagnosis? Gender, Racialization and Social Class

  • Julie Allan
  • Valerie Harwood


This chapter addresses the context of ADHD and childhood mental disorders and considers the ‘risks’ associated with ‘race’, class, and gender within this domain. The chapter draws together the literature on ADHD and childhood mental disorders and statistics from the UK, US, Australia, and Brazil to examine critically the patterns and trends relating to psy-diagnosis, which lead to a whole set of complex spatialization and naming practices. This phenomenon reflects an increasing tendency to attribute mental disorders to individuals with behavioural difficulties. The risk factors of ‘race’, class, and gender are considered in terms of the prevalence of psy-diagnosis that goes on within these arenas. 'Race’, class, and gender heighten the risk of psy-diagnosis, while at the same time, the very process of psy-diagnosis deflects attention from racialised discrimination or poverty in the lives of children and young people. We argue that the psy-diagnosis of behavioural problems, both in discourse and practice, is dangerous, because it obscures other interpretations of children and their behaviour and detracts from considerations of what is best, educationally, for individual children. We recommend privileging pedagogy over pathology to seek to change the conversation through public discourse and debate and to help beginning teachers to engage more constructively with difference.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Allan
    • 1
  • Valerie Harwood
    • 2
  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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