Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Oppositional defiant disorder in children-Diagnosis, Manic-depressive illness in children-Diagnosis, Children, Clinicians, ODD, PBD, Diagnosing


Much of the research indicates that diagnosing children with mental illness is a murky issue that has serious implications. Mostly absent in the literature regarding pediatric mental illness is the clinician’s experience of diagnosing children. This study will help to address this gap by investigating clinicians’ experience of diagnosing oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) in children across treatment settings. Specifically, this study will investigate (1) how clinicians understand the etiological factors contributing to children’s symptoms; (2) how clinicians are affected by mental health care policies and systems; (3) and lastly, how clinicians perceive both their personal and their clients’ sociocultural identities impacting diagnosis and treatment. The latter was explored through semi-structured, open-ended interviews with eleven mental health practitioners. The findings from this study elucidate the points of ambiguity and tension in diagnosing a child with a psychiatric illness. The dissatisfaction with the current system of diagnosis potentially draws into question the validity and meaning of pediatric mental illness at all. Regardless, these findings suggest that more research is needed to examine clinician’s perspectives, as there is significant literature exploring clinical treatment and practice, but little about how clinicians actually feel about the system, criteria, and practice of diagnosis.




v, 78 pages : color illustrations. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Include bibliographical references (pages 62-68)

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Social Work Commons