Stabilizing attention deficit disorder
Fuller, Paul C
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This research examines the emergence, diffusion, and local stabilization of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD) through a two year ethnographic case study of a local parents' support group. Employing a composite methodology of field work and interviews with group members--this research asks how actors shape the meanings of the disorder at the local level. ADD is modeled as a broadly available discursive object that constitutes a flexible form of 'illness' that is structured according to different types of statements and associations made with the disorder--these include the causes, consequences, treatments, and ways of diagnosing the disorder. ADD statements demonstrate relatively greater degrees of stability in the putative causes of the disorder and relatively more flexibility in the consequences, treatments, and diagnostic techniques used to determine the disorder. This flexibility allows lay actors to stabilize the range of meanings of the disorder within their everyday lives--ADD statements emerge as flexibly adaptable to various situations and operate as powerfully authorized knowledge claims. The 'core' membership of the group consisted of ten individuals--ADD was not only attributed to their children but was commonly used as a self-diagnosis as well. The findings demonstrate that ADD is used to articulate an entire domain of problematic situations that range from the stress of managing dual earner households with children, the gendered division of labor, the routines of white collar work, and the de-individuation of their children in various school settings. The processes that are entailed in this deployment include a collective level process of modeling and distinguishing the bounds of problems that are associated with ADD, the navigation of professional expertise and the ways these are both resisted and valorized as objective, and the differential processes of identification that entail weaving ADD as micro-logical 'accounts' within the parents' sets of perceived difficulties. These practices constituted a type of tactic on the part of the women in this group that resonated with their relatively weak position within differing fields of social relations--those of professional experts, those of school administrators, and those of the traditionally gendered division of household labor.