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We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication Hardcover – February 23, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author (Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety) and New York Times columnist Warner turns an investigative eye to the epidemic of diagnosed childhood psychiatric disorders and widespread use of prescription psychotropic drugs to modify children's behavior. Major questions are raised: are drugs a substitute for proper parenting? Is there something more socially significant underlying the labeling and drugging of kids? Following an awkward introductory chapter about why the subject confounded and eluded her, Warner serves up more bad news than good. The book is hampered by a great deal of diverse and conflicting professional opinion and research, with references to just about every prominent expert on child psychology, from mainstream to fringe. Although readers may end up more confused than hopeful about the status of children's mental health in America, they will discover that 5% of all American kids do have psychological issues for which they receive proper medication and counseling. Not as heartfelt as The Elephant in the Playroom nor as helpful as books on individual disorders, this examination will still function as a wakeup call for lots of parents. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In this manifesto for change, New York Times blogger Warner (Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, 2005, etc.) examines the argument that Americans are overmedicating their children.
The author wanted to write a condemnation of American parents for hysterically spotting mental disorders where there are none. When she began interviewing parents and mental-health professionals, however, she reversed her position. Only five percent of American children take psychotropic drugs, she writes, yet that many suffer from extreme mental illness, while another 15 percent endure at least minimal illness. Not only has Warner never met a parent who lunged for the medicine cabinet to dope up their kids, but some fought the medication route as long as they could, to the detriment of their child. It's true that antidepressant prescriptions for children have skyrocketed, but that's because primitive understanding of the brain left many sick children undiagnosed in the past; we now have more effective drugs for some illnesses; and the stigma of mental illness is blessedly diminished. Warner cites research that girls, minority children and those with less-educated parents are undertreated for ADHD. Careful reporter that she is, the author acknowledges that some experts might dispute parts of her thesis. Other signs of childhood trauma-teen pregnancy, school violence, crime, substance abuse and suicide-have declined, and Warner reports special professional skepticism about exploding rates of bipolar diagnoses in children. Meanwhile, too many laypeople are spooked by drug companies' ads plugging their latest products, which doctors might not recommend. Curtailing those ads and more insurance coverage for pediatric mental-health screenings are among the author's welcome common-sense proposals.
Parents of mentally ill children will find this tonic reassuring, while all parents will find it a valuable reminder that it's not poor parenting to seek medical help for your children.

"Warner, New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, set out to write a follow-up volume exposing what she believed were capricious diagnoses and medication of children's mental and learning disorders. Instead, she fell down the rabbit hole to an alternative reality. Although she found the stereotype of pushy parents who shop for prescriptions or educational accommodations to fit their overscheduled children, Warner's heartbreaking conversations with pediatricians and the parents of children with mental issues such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, serious depression, or bipolar disorders led her to see beyond her prejudices. As Warner passionately writes, appropriate care for childhood mental illness, if possible, is not necessarily probable. The perceived stigma of mental illness, deep-rooted suspicions of the medical and educational establishments, and, above all, merciless economic factors deny a shocking number of children with learning or mental disabilities the care and medications they need to succeed in school and society. Parents, social workers, and educators will find Warner's compelling study troubling but enlightening. Highly recommended.
-Library Journal

"This is a groundbreaking, thoughtfully argued book. My experience with families in the consulting room supports Judith Warner's nuanced argument exactly. The myth perpetrated by a breathless news media is fals: In reality, parents don't want to medicate their children. And every one of us has family members and friends (or ourselves!) who could have led richer, less anguished lives had they been given appropriate medication during childhood for learning or emotional problems."
-Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

"This is an important book, a landmark book, a triumph of honesty over bigotry and of patient learning over the the rush to judgement. I see every day in my office the awful, preventable damage done by zealots and reductionistic 'thinking'. Judith Warner rejects the panicky sound-bites that have plagued the discussion of children's mental health for the complexity of truth. She brings to all who read her book the resoundingly good and hopeful news of how much we have learned over the past few decades, how trasforming the best help can be, and how all children can turn into responsible, joyful adults. We owe her a huge debt."
-Edward Hallowell, M.D., co-author of Super Parenting for ADD and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

"Readers love Judith Warner because she is open, honest, attuned, and curious. In We've Got Issues, Warner considers children and psychotherapeutic medicine: whether drug companies hold too much sway, whether doctors over-prescribe, but also whether troubled boys and girls might sometimes need more help than they get today. The result is a caring and informed book that will earn the trust and loyalty of a wide audience."
-Peter D. Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487545
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487545
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,413,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Judith Warner initially planned to write a book on how American children were falsely diagnosed and over-medicated by thoughtlessly competitive parents seeking a quick fix for their perfectly healthy (albeit quirky) children, for reasons ranging from enhancing their competitive edge (e.g. to raise their "B" grades to "A" grades) to "calming them down" to make parenting easier. She admits she once strongly believed, as many do, that hordes of children were medicated for "flavor of the week" disorders by lazy parents and unscrupulous doctors, and at the recommendation of teachers who needed their young charges to sit still for hours on end at school. What she discovered, however, after seeking such people...is that she couldn't find them. What she discovered instead were parents of sometimes desperately ill children who finally turned to medication (sometimes after years of "denial" about their child's illness) in desperation, more often than not as a last resort, and with great guilt, after trying every other nutritional or behavioral therapy they could identify. To all those adults who ask "where were all these children before when we were growing up?," Ms. Warner notes that they were always there. It's not that there are so many more now -- it's just that now we know what to look for. A kid with what we now know as Asperger's was once just labeled "weird." Similarly, we all knew kids with ADHD in school -- they were the wild, undisciplined kids who couldn't behave (not "wouldn't," but actually couldn't), or couldn't perform, or were labeled "stupid" or "lazy" and for whom the "treatment" ranged from failure to spanking. Ask any adult who lived through ADHD as a kid -- they remember, and they will tell you it exists.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, a BIG GIANT THANK YOU to Judith Warner! As a parent of a child "with issues" this book is documenting not just our journey, but the very similar journeys of many other parents. It is a great relief to read that our experiences were not unique. It deeply sad that we were out there on our own, while others were experiencing these things as well. If you as a parent are just starting this long and difficult journey this book is a must read! Also a great book to put into the hands of those within your circle of friends and family who stand in judgment of you!!!!
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Format: Hardcover
I've been a child clinical psychologist for 28 years and have seen pretty much all the changes in our cultural and medical views of childhood mental disorders as outlined in this book. Finally, someone sees the need to steer clear of all the hysteria and rhetoric and do something which child health professionals have been doing forever--actually getting to know these children and--gasp!--TALKING to their parents instead of condemning them. I'll say flatly that this book is nothing short of heroic. It demands to be read by anyone who is interested in a clearheaded, well-researched, and beautifully written work, stripped of all the ill-informed, judgmental and paranoid nonsense which abounds.
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Format: Paperback
Are kids today over-medicated and over-diagnosed by their hovering helicopter parents? Or, is all the medication and treatment necessary to help kids manage their very real mental disorders? Those are the questions Judith Warner addresses in We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication. As Warner explains, she started writing this book based on the premise that today's kids are over-medicated and over-diagnosed, but as she continued her research, she decided that the media and it's anecdotal evidence were oversimplifying the picture.

As an engineer, I love that Warner actually researched the topic, and allowed the evidence to influence her thinking. I also appreciated that she has such an extensive reference list, over 50 pages for those who want to learn more. As a reader, I appreciated the well written style of the book. But, as a therapist, I thought the conclusions were too simply stated, and the conversational, anecdotal tone was relied on so much it interfered with a more rigorous analysis.

Surely, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Some parents hover, expect too much from their kids, and pathologize normal behavior. Other parents, certainly the overwhelming majority of the families I've seen, are dealing with kids who are clearly struggling, kids who have evident difficulties, and their parents allow medication and diagnosis only with caution and reluctance. But the way to illustrate this truth is through facts and data, and too often Warner relies on examples and stories from the families she's interviewed. A compelling read, no doubt, but ironic in that Warner is criticizing the very type of research-by-anecdotal-evidence that she's using here.
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Format: Paperback
Thank you for this book. I'm sorry Bookgirl, reading medical records all day long is not the same as seeing and working with a child too distracted to even hear his or her name called in a classroom. You have to experience, as a parent or educator, how destructive ADHD can be on early learning. I deal occasionally with parents who feel legitimate medication for an organic deficit is "drugging" their child. It's difficult to explain that the child's system in not in a normal mode and this medication gets them to that state so information can be understood and retained. Insulin for a diabetic child is not drugging them, it is getting their system to normal. My high-blood pressure medication gets my system to a normal level.

Armchair quarterbacks who criticize medication and have never seen the frustration that these children experience when the are unable to keep up and cope with the progress of the other children, are doing a terrible disservice to parents, and perpetuate an unfounded myth of drugging children. I can't tell you how many parents have come into my office a few weeks after their children start medication and in tears thank me for convincing them to look into that option. Those of us who work with these children know the dramatic turn-around that takes place in learning, and how this helps us to teach them strategies to cope with their ADHD so that eventually they can stop medication and self-monitor themselves.
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