In the past, children who didn’t do well in school were called “lazy,” “dumb,” or “difficult.” Today, psychiatry has helped identify subtle symptoms of disorders that might hamper their learning capabilities, hence shifting the blame away from the behavior of the children.
However, with each new psychiatric disorder being discovered, children might experience certain difficulties when they are labeled with specific disorders. Hence, it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of labeling children, especially if your little one has been having learning or behavior problems.
Pros Of Psychiatric Labeling
Early diagnosis of psychiatric disorders is vital to understanding the hindrances to your child’s growth and development.1 But, there are other pros of both diagnosing and subsequent labeling of children with psychiatric disorders. Here are a few of them.
1. Drives Schools To Provide Assistance
Most school policies today are increasingly focused on improved test scores and higher graduation rates. Hence, they might be driven to offer extra assistance and testing accommodations to children who face certain challenges at school.
2. Offers Direction For Treatment
For researchers, practitioners, training programs, and insurance companies, labels simplify communication and help focus on the details and available data of a specific disorder. Increase in available data, in turn, leads to better access and availability of treatment resources for professionals.
Additionally, labels help parents acquire the right kind of knowledge regarding the condition which then helps them handle difficult situations more effectively. It can also help them see their children as “different” and not just “bizarre” or “brats.”
3. Boosts Children’s Self-Esteem
Labels can help them identify the specific problem and reattribute their difficulties to the diagnosis. This, hence, helps boost their self-esteem.
Although these benefits of labels can’t be overlooked, it’s important to exercise caution and care once your child has been diagnosed, so as to avoid slowing down the progress your child.2
Cons Of Psychiatric Labeling
1. Focuses Only On The Diagnosis
Often, a diagnostic label might get people to focus on the specific problem of a child and overlook any positive personal characteristics of his. And, this leads to parents and teachers attending to children only when they show signs of a disorder and ignoring them when they are alright.
Additionally, it might limit his capability to grow in other areas. For instance, teachers who are aware of a child’s challenges might expect less of him, hence giving him lesser attention, and causing the child to not perform well in school. This, in turn, further reinforces the diagnosis and hampers growth.3
2. Increases The Risk Of Misdiagnosis
Often, the nature of psychological disorders, such as degrees of severity, causes, chronicity, and duration, are ignored. Instead, a checklist with a range of symptoms is used to diagnose a disorder.
Children, meanwhile, have developing minds that need a more specific, focused approach. At the moment, only a few disorders are defined and explained in relation to a child’s behavior. And, the lack of a more uniform approach to diagnosing mental disorders can lead to misdiagnosis.4
3. Leads To Stigmatization
Children who are labeled with specific disorders often experience a change in the reputation for the worse. Peers tend to form negative attitudes towards individuals with psychiatric disorders, hence subjecting them to name-calling, bullying, or isolation.
4. Relies On Harmful Medications
Often, professionals prescribe medications as the first-line of treatment for any diagnosis. These medications can lead to certain side effects that might harm the child.
For instance, drugs that are used to treat ADHD might lead to insomnia, suppressed appetite, and slow growth. They might also lead to addiction. It’s important to have an honest discussion with the professional and opt for alternative treatment options when possible.6
Despite the cons of diagnostic labels, it’s important to seek professional help if your child’s facing unusual difficulties in school. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid subjecting the child to social stigmatization and misdiagnosis.
|↑1||Importance of Early Identification. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.|
|↑2||Just a Label? Some Pros and Cons of Formal Diagnoses of Children. The University Of California, Los Angeles.|
|↑3||Labeling Troubled and Troubling Youth: The Name Game. The University Of California, Los Angeles.|
|↑4||Ayers, Ryan. “Ethical issues in the diagnosis of mental illness in children.” (2014).|
|↑5||Lauchlan, Fraser, and Christopher Boyle. “Is the use of labels in special education helpful?.” Support for learning 22, no. 1 (2007): 36-42.|
|↑6||Just a Label? Some Pros and Cons of Formal Diagnoses of Children.