Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Science, Technology and Society

Reader 1

Laura Perini

Reader 2

Vivien Hamilton

Reader 3

Nancy Williams

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2016 Amelia K Hamiter


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has garnered controversy in the United States since it became a widely diagnosed disorder in American schoolchildren in the 1970s. Both diagnosis and treatment are sites of controversy. Some believe the disorder is a contrivance of parents and teachers who do not want to deal with hardly exceptional childhood difficulties, or a contrivance of pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of such parents and teachers. Others believe that a neurobiological basis for the disorder will eventually be discovered, and thus will legitimize both the diagnosis and the practice of prescribing medication for treatment. I utilize the Science, Technology, and Society approach of actor network theory to show that these multiple understandings of ADHD can coexist, since ADHD is a complex product of external and internal agents. This will demonstrate how cultural shifts and values cause parents, teachers, and doctors to evaluate childhood in a way that frames certain behaviors as harmful. I also evaluate how cultural values of medicalization center issues in the individual rather than in external factors, and assess the values that psychiatric treatment appeals to and whether they primarily serve the needs of children. I conclude that ADHD is a heavily context-dependent disorder, but that that does not delegitimize harmful effect on children who exhibit ADHD-associated behaviors. I also conclude that the current dominant medicalized approach to ADHD is not optimal because it focuses on only a few of the total factors that make ADHD a pathological disorder for children in the contemporary United States.