It’s the Family Stupid and Pills Can’t Fix it


Kyle developed temper tantrums, and mother was at her wit’s end. She contacted various doctors, who marched out the usual suspects: autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia, oppositional defiant disorder. Along with diseases came the drugs to treat them- and Kyle got several: the antipsychotic respirdol, the antidepressant prozac, two sleeping medicines and one for attention deficit disorder.

Did I mention Kyle was only 18 months old?

No more temper tantrums, but no more Kyle. His mother told The New York Times:

“I didn’t have my son. Its like, you would look into his eyes and just see blankness”.

This case is not unusual. It is part of a disturbing trend in prescribing drugs originally developed to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in adults being prescribed for children with behavior problems.

The antipsychotics were developed to treat severe mental illnesses in adults. They all have serious side effects, and anyone taking them has to be closely monitored medically. They pose serious risks to the fast-developing brains and bodies of children. But the doctors had no problem prescribing them, and the insurance company and/or Medicaid paid for them.

Why are we now harming children with drugs meant to help severely disturbed adults? Perhaps because we have come to believe what the leftists have been feeding us for so long, that the family doesn’t matter.

Daycares, mom’s series of new boyfriends, aren’t real issues in terms of child welfare. So, if a child has a serious problem, doctors can ignore these issues, and simply call it a disease, give the child a drug, no one has to change, the child ceases to make trouble, mom has peace-and the Doctors and drug companies make money. Everyone’s happy.

Kyle’s mother realized that her now terribly over weight, drooling son had been lost somewhere inside himself. She eventually got help through a program affiliated with Tulane University. Kyle was weaned off all but one of the drugs.

Why what the doctors’ diagnosis? Family turmoil and language delays.

Various professional groups are becoming concerned about the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat children. The American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry has recommended a national registry be developed to track the phenomenon.

But that’s only part of the problem. Kyle is not the only disturbed child whose problems stem from “family turmoil”.  Nick Cummings, Ph.D., former President of the American Psychological Association, in his book Destructive Trends in Mental Health, reports on a study on hyperactive boys that attributed many of the boys’ difficulties to their mothers’ feckless boyfriends who came and went with depressing regularity.

Several years ago while working as a psychologist in a psychiatric hospital for teenagers, I couldn’t help noticing how many case histories reported that the child’s difficulties either developed or became worse after a divorce, Mom’s boyfriend moving in, or some other major change in the family.

The mental health professions, in understanding and treating the behavioral and emotional problems of children and teenagers, need to put stop disguising their politically correct diagnosis with the disease model.

By assuming the social development process is primarily within the child, rather than look to the family environment, as a major factor underlying the child’s disturbance the doctors miss half the picture. Assessment and treatment should consider whether a stable, bread-winning male figure is present within the home, the number of hours spent in front of the TV or with electronic media, whether there is a stable, daily routine.

Then, and only then will the children get the help they need, and perhaps those with the real issues will get some help as well.

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