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By Diane Cole
The Myth of Overmedication
Correcting stereotypes about kids' mental heath
We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication
The best way to read We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication is to think of it as the education of its journalist author, Judith Warner.
From the get-go, she confesses that when she first set out to write her book, she was certain that large numbers of American children were being overmedicated and unnecessarily pathologized by their neurotic and competitive parents. She doubted the supposed seriousness of the wide array of elusive-sounding mental health ailments, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities from which these children were said to suffer. The whole thing sounded like a scam, ripe for an exposŽ.
The book she initially proposed to write would put the blame where she felt it belonged—on overanxious parents, who inflated and overdramatized their kids' problems into major issues, and then fed them Ritalin or antidepressants as the easy way out of parental responsibility. It didn't matter that, in fact, Warner didn't know any such parents or families. Nevertheless, wherever she went in her upscale urban milieu, she heard anonymous anecdotes that seemed to confirm this deplorable trend. As the author of a previous bestseller about the stressed-out lives of contemporary families, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, Warner sensed a story that might make a good follow-up to her earlier publishing success. She had no trouble getting a lucrative contract based on nothing more than her casual assumptions and a conversation with her editor.
Only then did she actually begin to research her thesis. To her chagrin, the picture that emerged was not only quite different, but far more complex than the simplistic notions with which she'd begun.