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Transcult Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;47(5):686-706. doi: 10.1177/1363461510381158.

The McDonaldization of childhood: children's mental health in neo-liberal market cultures.

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National Health Service in Lincolnshire, and University of Lincoln, UK.


As the failings of neo-liberalism have recently been revealed through the collapse of much of the banking and financial services sector, it seems an opportune time to think about the impact this economic, political, and social value system has had on the well-being of children. After analyzing how our beliefs and practices around children and families are shaped by a variety of economic, political, and cultural pressures, I discuss how policies that promote a particular form of aggressive capitalism lead to a narcissistic value system that permeates social institutions, including those that deal with children. Not only does this impact children's emotional well-being, but it also shapes the way we conceptualize children and their problems. These dynamics facilitate the rapid growth of child psychiatric diagnoses and the tendency to deal with aberrant behavior or emotions in children through technical--particularly pharmaceutical--interventions, a phenomenon I refer to as the 'McDonaldization' of children's mental health. The present article seeks to challenge many of the unhelpful cultural assumptions regarding childhood embedded within the narrow biomedical frame that neo-liberalism has encouraged.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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