Pathologizing Trauma: A Discourse Analysis of Diagnosis in Adoption
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The purpose of this study is to look at the influence of diagnosis on the way in which the experiences of children who have been adopted are understood. The pathologizing of trauma is explored through a Critical Discourse Analysis of selections from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as well as an article on trauma as it relates to children who are in need of foster or adoptive homes. A response-based perspective from the theories of Response-Based Practice is used for the Discourse Analysis to explore the ways in which language use highlights or silences the resistance shown by children who have experienced trauma. The results of the study show that language used in the discourse studied minimizes resistance shown by children who have been adopted. Through pathologizing language that focuses on symptoms of disorders, children’s responses to trauma may not be fully recognized or understood. The recommendations include the need for parents and adoption professionals to understand more about the responses children may be demonstrating to experiences of trauma. A part of this recommendation is the need to remain aware of the ways in which language contributes to understanding and making sense of the experiences and behaviours of children who have been adopted. The impact of not understanding the full context of behaviour related to trauma and adoption may lead to misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment or adoption disruption.