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Lived Experiences of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in U.S. Children and Families
Carpenter-Song, Elizabeth Anne

2007, Doctor of Philosophy, Case Western Reserve University, Anthropology.
This dissertation investigates the everyday lived experience of children diagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders and their families living in a metropolitan area of the northeastern United States. Participating families (n=20) were from diverse ethnic (African-American, Euro-American, Latino) and socioeconomic backgrounds. This study aimed to understand the meaning of children’s behavioral and emotional problems from the perspective of families and how such problems were configured within the intimate worlds of families through ethnographic interviews and observations across home, clinic, and community contexts. Two patterns of interaction were observed among families: high and low tension. Family dynamics are considered in relation to (1) families’ conceptualizations of disorders, (2) how family processes may be mediated by broad socio-cultural discourses pertaining to class, race, and gender, and (3) are used to examine socialization patterns and communication patterns characteristic of high and low tension families respectively. Parental narratives reflect diverse conceptualizations of behavioral and emotional problems. In this study, African-American families ascribe less to medicalized views of children’s problems than their Euro-American counterparts and instead call attention to interpersonal and institutional explanations. African-American families expressed strong expectations for self-control and encouragement of personal responsibility among their children. Euro-American families, in comparison, overwhelmingly voice their sense of a lack of control over their children’s problems and their narratives reflect a sense of helplessness. How families conceptualize problems and their orientations to parenting and childrearing appear to hold implications for attitudes toward, and utilization of, mental health services. Children’s own perspectives on these issues highlight the limited salience that biomedical explanations may hold. Specifically, children in the study rarely ascribe to disease models of their problems and instead assert that problematic actions and feelings are inextricably linked to self and social processes, focusing on the immediacy of interactions with family, peers, and teachers. Children’s narratives regarding mental health services reveal that treatment cuts two ways: holding the potential to help, but also exposing children to the potential for stigma. This dissertation contributes to several theoretical streams, including studies of children and socialization, families and mental illness, and theories of self and experience.
Janis Jenkins (Advisor)
424 p.

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Carpenter-Song, E. (2007). Lived Experiences of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in U.S. Children and Families. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Carpenter-Song, Elizabeth. "Lived Experiences of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in U.S. Children and Families." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Case Western Reserve University, 2007. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 21 Apr 2015.

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Carpenter-Song, Elizabeth "Lived Experiences of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in U.S. Children and Families." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Case Western Reserve University, 2007. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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