Sean Patrick Hatt

ADHD in Black and White: A Comparative Inquiry in Narrative and Photographs Examining The Social Construction Of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder In Poor African American And Affluent White American Families

by Sean Patrick Hatt
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Palo Alto, California
March 18, 2009

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is taken for granted as a neurobiological reality. Despite decades of medical research and treatment, ADHD prevalence continues to rise, with vexing differences between genders, races, and socioeconomic strata. This suggests ADHD may be socially constructed. To investigate, I studied 2 very different families, each including adolescent boys diagnosed with ADHD early in childhood: One, African American and living below the poverty line in a dangerous neighborhood; the other, White and living in affluent security. Using a novel method synthesizing phenomenology, embodied hermeneutic inquiry, and auto-photographic ethnography, I sought to explicate shared essential structures of ADHD, while maintaining contact with the textures of disparate lifeworlds.

My hope was to acknowledge the suffering ADHD visits on families, while honoring the complexity of systemic forces at work, particularly for poor, racially oppressed families.