Children's Sense of Self in Relation to Clinical Processes: Portraits of Pharmaceutical Transformation



This article presents in-depth accounts of pharmaceutical transformation from the perspective of two children diagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders. These portraits provide the basis for an examination of the complex interrelation between self and clinical processes. Narrative data were collected in the context of a 13-month anthropological study of the lived experiences of children diagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders and their families living in the northeastern United States. Participating families (N=20) were from diverse racial/ethnic (African American, Euro-American, and Latino) and socioeconomic backgrounds. Psychiatric diagnoses and pharmaceuticals present tangible constraints in the lives of children that call attention to otherwise fluid and ephemeral self processes. These accounts suggest that psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medications present dilemmas for children's developing sense of self, revealing limitations to biopsychiatric “pharmaceutical promises.” [children, self processes, subjective experience, psychiatric disorder, pharmaceuticals]