Religion and Medicalization: The Case of ADHD


  • Acknowledgments: The author thanks Bob Wuthnow, Paul DiMaggio, and the members of the 2010–2011 Religion and Public Life Seminar at Princeton University for invaluable feedback during the preparation of this article.

Correspondence should be addressed to Kati Li, Department of Sociology, Princeton University, 107 Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail:


As a medicalized condition, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sparks considerable public controversy. Previous research has highlighted the importance of examining the factors that influence attitudes toward ADHD. This article examines an understudied factor, religion, and its relationship with ADHD attitudes. Using data from the 2002 General Social Survey National Stigma Study-Children, this research finds that compared to the rest of the population, evangelical Christians are less likely to view ADHD as a real disease and to believe children with ADHD should be treated with medication. Results also demonstrate that evangelicals are more likely to think doctors are overmedicating children with common behavior problems and to think medication prevents families from working out problems themselves. On the other hand, church attendance is unrelated to beliefs about ADHD treatment but is positively associated with thinking ADHD is a real disease. These findings add new insights to the existing literature on religion and medicalization.