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J Health Soc Behav. 2004 Mar;45(1):53-67.

Public attitudes toward the use of psychiatric medications for children.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Indiana University, Ballantine Hall 744, 1020 E. Kirkwood, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.


Psychiatric medication use for children has increased dramatically over the past three decades. Despite substantial media attention to the issue, little is known about how the lay public feels about the use of psychiatric medications for children. Drawing on theories of medicalization, we describe and analyze Americans' attitudes towards the use of psychiatric medications generally and Prozac specifically for children described as having three types of behavioral problems. Using data from the 1998 General Social Survey's Pressing Issues in Health and Medical Care Module, we find that more Americans (57%) are willing to use psychiatric medications for children who have expressed suicidal statements than for "oppositional" behaviors (34.2%) or for hyperactivity (29.5%). Across the board, respondents are less willing to give Prozac than the general class of psychiatric medications. While socio-demographics do little to identify Americans with differing positions, the strongest and most consistent correlates of willingness to give psychiatric medications to children are trust in personal physicians, general attitudes towards psychiatric medications, and the respondent's expressed willingness to take psychiatric medications herself or himself.

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