Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Motherhood, Resistance and Attention Deficit Disorder: Strategies and Limits [*]

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Motherhood, Resistance and Attention Deficit Disorder: Strategies and Limits [*]

Article excerpt

Etant donne son ambiguite sur les plans culturel et historique, l'appellation psychiatrique de trouble deficitaire de l'attention (hyperactivite) entraine les meres dans un conflit avec les discours sur l'image de la bonne mere, la normativite familiale, les competences professionnellos et la notion de risque. L'etude d'entretiens avec 34 femmes au Canada et en Angleterre a permis de comprendre, du point de vue des femmes, les mecanismes de la connaissance et du pouvoir qui sous-tendent les relations avec des professionnels de la medecine, de la psychiatrie et de l'education. Les meres se sont approprie une vaste gamme de methodes discursives afin de se presenter elles et leur famille comme des personnes meritantes, louables et cultivees. Elles se sont engagees dans l'examen scrupuleux des methodes educationnelles et psychiatriques par l'intermediaire du benevolat, de la contribution a la conception de politiques, de la tenue de dossiers et du recours des temoins externes afin de renforcer leur legitimite. Pa r ailleurs, de nombreuses femmes se sont engagees dans le jeu de la verite, ont choisi la confrontation et, finalement, le refus. Toutefois, etant donne que des enfants vulnerables sont en jeu, la capacite des meres a resister veritablement reste limitee.

The psychiatric category Attention Deficit Disorder (Hyperactivity), because of its cultural and historical ambiguity, brings mothers into conflict with discourses of good motherhood, family normativity, professional knowledge and risk. Interviews with 34 women in Canada and England were conducted as a way to understand, from women's perspectives, the workings of knowledge and power encountered in dealing with medical, psychiatric and educational professionals. Mothers took up a wide range of discursive practices in attempts to position themselves and their families as worthy, deserving and knowledgeable. They also engaged in scrutiny of educational and psychiatric practice through volunteering, policy contributions, record keeping and using outside witnesses to shore up their legitimacy. As well, many engaged in knowledge/truth games, confrontation and, ultimately, refusal. However, because vulnerable children are at stake, mothers' ability to truly resist remains limited.

THIS PAPER EXAMINES the experiences of 34 British and Canadian women whose children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD).1 My interest in undertaking this comparative research was not to examine macro-level medical, educational, and psychiatric practices related to ADD/ADHD in Canada or England; nor was I hoping to determine which country's practices are more "accurate" in terms of locating and responding to the "real" nature of ADD/ADHD. Instead, I sought to understand what it is like, within two different cultural contexts, to be a mother confronting multiple "helping" professionals while dealing with this highly controversial diagnosis. I suspected that mothers of children who are identified as troubled would be both objects of surveillance and bearers of blame, and that their narratives would provide insight into the workings of power in the handling of children and families that are deemed problematic.

Theoretical Framework

Foucauldian notions of knowledge, power, and resistance inform my analysis. I understand these mothers as knowing Foucauldian subjects who are active participants in a discursive field of circulating, local and practicebased power relations, and whose perspective is able to provide a rich penetration into the micropolitics of ADD/ADHD (Weedon, 1987). I believed that mothers, as objects of medical, psychiatric, educational and social work discourse, and as subjects who interpret, interface, advocate and care for their children in conjunction with professionals, can offer a critical understanding of professional discourse and practice attached to ADD/ADHD. In addition, they have much to say about how women in relatively subordinate positions offer resistance and appropriate power in an attempt to be heard, respected and served. …

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