Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Depolarizing the debates about pediatric mental health diagnosis and treatment

Date:
March 16, 2011
Source:
The Hastings Center
Summary:
Decisions about whether and how to diagnose children with emotional and behavioral disturbances, and whether and how to treat them, are sometimes not clear-cut. When decisions lie within a "zone of ambiguity," people who emphasize different value commitments can reach different but equally respectable conclusions. We need to tolerate these reasonable disagreements, according to a special report.

Decisions about whether and how to diagnose children with emotional and behavioral disturbances, and whether and how to treat them, are sometimes not clear-cut. When decisions lie within a "zone of ambiguity," people who emphasize different value commitments can reach different but equally respectable conclusions. We need to tolerate these reasonable disagreements, according to a special report.

However, one of the report's disturbing conclusions is that many children with patently problematic moods and behaviors fail to receive the care recommended by experts. Systemic and cultural pressures compromise the diagnostic process and constrain the treatment choices of clinicians and parents, making it increasingly likely that medication is the only treatment children receive, even if the combination of medication and psychosocial treatment is recommended by experts.

The report is the culmination of a series of five workshops held by The Hastings Center and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which brought together an interdisciplinary group including psychiatrists, educators, parent advocates, social scientists and bioethicists. The project was led by Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, research scholars at The Hastings Center, who wrote the report.

The report takes a critical as well as a sympathetic look at long-running debates about how to interpret problematic moods and behaviors in children and about whether and how to intervene. It finds fundamental agreement that some children exhibit patently dysfunctional moods and behaviors and that these children deserve -- though too often do not get -- access to recommended care.

But the authors also describe inevitable disagreement about, for example, exactly where to draw the line between normal and unhealthy aggression or exactly how to balance the need for symptom relief and the need for schools and communities to accommodate a diverse range of children.

"What we've learned is that diagnoses don't have clear boundaries -- what counts as healthy and unhealthy anxiety or healthy and unhealthy aggression, for example, is not written in nature," said Parens. "Human beings living and working in particular places and times define them. This leads to inevitable disagreements about whether a cluster of moods and behaviors is best understood as disordered, about how exactly to describe some symptoms, and about whether or which particular diagnosis is warranted."

"One of our conclusions is that because diagnosis and treatment decisions invariably involve value commitments, there will be disagreements, especially on the margins and in difficult cases," said Johnston. "How one weighs, for instance, the parental obligations both to shape children and to let them unfold in their own ways can influence how one responds to difficult diagnostic and treatment decisions."

The report also concludes that too little is done to improve children's environments that contribute to their problematic behaviors.

"We need to remove the barriers that stand in the way of optimal care for those children who are suffering from moods and behaviors that no one would consider normal or healthy," the authors say.

The project was designed to better understand the controversies surrounding the diagnosis of mental disorders in children in the United States, and recent increases in the use of medications to treat those disorders.

It examined questions such as: Why are these diagnoses so controversial? Why do some people feel that children are over-medicated, while others are concerned about under-treatment? As different cultures have different rates of treatment with psychotropic medications, how much of what we see in the United States is driven by context -- by individual, familial, or societal values?


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Hastings Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Hastings Center. "Depolarizing the debates about pediatric mental health diagnosis and treatment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316122514.htm>.
The Hastings Center. (2011, March 16). Depolarizing the debates about pediatric mental health diagnosis and treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316122514.htm
The Hastings Center. "Depolarizing the debates about pediatric mental health diagnosis and treatment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316122514.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins