Are today's children over-diagnosed? Are we, as a nation, slapping psychological disorder labels on children in cases where some old-fashioned discipline would fix any problems? 

Articles, blog posts, parental anecdotes, and- increasingly- tales from adults who were/were not treated as children for disorders they know they had, abound. Few have no opinion on this issue. Many have vehement opinions. Listed below are a few of those vehement opinions (I'm NOT advocating them, I'm listing them!):
1) Parents who medicate their children are abusive. 
2) Children are over-medicated because doctors are pushing pills because the drug companies give them incentives to do so. 
3) We simply recognize the disorders that have been around for decades (or centuries) and are now finally treating them. 
4) Some old-fashioned discipline (usually spanking) would solve any "attention problems." 

Whew! What a spectrum of belief. As a historian, I have to chuckle a little bit. A century ago, most children worked like little adults in order for the family to survive. Two and three hundred years ago, people had children because they provided another worker for the family. Of course, I'm speaking of general trends, not attempting to state this was the condition of all economic and social classes in all countries. However, it is undeniable that the idea of an idyllic "childhood" that must be protected is a fairly new invention. 

One "New York" writer advocates view #3 above, and (nicely) states that we shouldn't consider that children are over-medicated as this is clearly not the case, citing a suicidal 6-year old as her closing argument (Warner, 2010). But she doesn't really consider the other side of the argument...a couple of quotes from doctors and a couple of admittedly tragic cases are the meat of her argument. 

CNN gives a more balanced view, citing cases in which medication clearly are needed, but acknowledging that abuse is taking place (Park, 2011). 

The moral of this story?: people need to consider both (or all) sides of an argument. Just because you FEEL something is true or should be true doesn't mean that it actually is true. 

Now, your 2 cents worth: Do you think America's children today are over-medicated? 


Warner, J. (February 12, 2010). Pilloried: are too many kids medicated? New York: New & Features. Retrieved from:

Park, M. (May 24, 2011). Little people, lots of pills: experts debate medicating kids. CNN Health. Retrieved from:



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