According to a study, released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.5% of children ages 6-17 were prescribed medication for “emotional or behavioral difficulties” during a 6 month period from 2010-2011. More than half the parents of these children reported that the medication helped “a lot”.
In addition those children enrolled in Medicaid or Child Health Plus were more likely to be prescribed medication as were children whose families were 100% below the poverty line.
Male patients were prescribed medication significantly more than their female counterparts at a rate of 9.7% vs. 5.2%.
Missing from the study was the actual nature of the disorders being treated and the medication being used. One could venture to guess that the greatest diagnosis would be ADHD, but the study curiously leaves out such crucial information. Also missing was a description of what “a lot” meant to the parents, which is crucial to inform us as to whether such determinations are merely subjective or useful in some way.
These findings are curious as the data suggests that there are larger macro forces negatively affecting our nation’s youth. Is the nation turning to medication as a necessary alternative to full time parenting, as a result of the stresses placed upon households that increasingly have either one parent or have both parents working? If parents are to be the subjective determinant as to whether there is a behavioral problem, not the patient, it is worth investigating whether these behavioral disturbances are an abnormality for the child or simply unmanageable for a parent who does not have enough time or energy to manage the behavioral difficulties with other non-medical alternatives? In other words it is possible that cultural norms and expectations are creating a disorder where there might not have been one in generations past?
Clearly there needs to be more research dedicated to this subject on both the micro and macro levels. The nation’s youth deserve more than a blind movement that is the result of treating the symptoms without dedicating vast resources to study the underlying causes.
For the full study click here.
Written by Matthew Cohen, MSW