The Effect of a Child's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on a Mother: the Hidden Disability of Motherhood
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This thesis is about the experience of a group of women who are mothers of children with the medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The outward manifestations of ADHD in children most often include the following criteria in varying degrees; learning disability, poor attention, impulsivity, poor coordination, restlessness, memory problems and peer relationship problems. These symptoms often have a lifelong effect on the person with ADHD. Hence, ADHD is a disorder that has the potential for socially disabling a person throughout life. The thesis suggests that a child’s ADHD has a disabling effect on some mothers. This occurs because some mothers with ADHD children appear different from the mythical image of a ‘good’ mother constructed by society. The difference is that mothers of ADHD are judged as failing in their mothering role of managing their child’s behaviour so that the child will develop as a responsible individual. Thus, there is a gap between societal expectations of mothers and the mothering behaviour engaged in by mothers of ADHD children. The gap between the two is the site of difference. The way society treats the difference is contingent upon the degree of difference that it judges to be present as well as the meaning of difference. I argue that the mother of an ADHD child is dealt with in a way that publicly condemns her difference. At the same time, society attempts to control her mothering behaviour so that she becomes more like other mothers. In this way I connect ADHD and motherhood with difference, disability and social control. In order to establish the difference and disability of mothering an ADHD child I utilise an interview-centred methodological approach, or the technique of narrative inquiry. From an analysis of narrative information the thesis examines how society deals with mothers of ADHD children and how this affects each mother. A feature of this study is that it identifies and examines a space of difference occupied by some mothers judged as failing in their role. To date, few studies have examined this topic. The general conclusion of the study refers to difference. I argue that despite a change in the benchmarks of difference, people of difference continue to experience the social sanctions of marginalisation, isolation and silence. The specific conclusions of the study refer to mothering a child who is different. First, I argue that society attempts to socially control the mother of the child following a diagnosis of her child with ADHD. Second, the medical model of treatment used to manage ADHD fails to take into account the sociological implications of the condition on the mother. Third, mothers of ADHD children are disabled by the meaning of mothering. Finally, social sanctions similar to those experienced by other people follow a judgement by society that mothers are failing in their role. Further, the study shows that the efforts by various societal institutions to control and regulate the behaviour of mothers of ADHD children result in mothers developing a self-sufficiency that enables them to be less receptive to conventional institutional dogma.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Education and Professional Studies
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder