Parental illness work across the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnostic journey

Tom Nicholson*, Richard Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The process of referral, assessment, and diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) within the UK is often protracted. Given that parents are frequently the instigators of the diagnostic process, understanding the experience of parents is important. Drawing on findings from a longitudinal study, this article explores how the parental experience of the ADHD diagnostic journey includes three significant and distinct forms of ‘illness work’. Twenty‐one semi‐structured serial interviews were conducted over a 2‐year period with seven parents of children on the ADHD diagnostic journey in North East England. We present three significant forms of parental illness work: (1) The ‘diagnostic quest’, parental work recognising and fighting for their children’s needs and selfhood, seeking diagnosis and engaging with systems, (2) ‘self‐biographical illness work’, the personal parental biographical response to the diagnostic journey and (3) ‘child biographical illness work and recontextualizing the child’, parental biographical adjustment and recontextualisation of their children. We advance Rasmussen et al.’s (2021) model by demonstrating its usefulness in understanding how parents with a personal ADHD diagnosis experience biographical disruption or cohesion in response to their children’s diagnosis. That a child’s diagnosis leads parents with ADHD to experience a self‐biographical cohesive or disruptive response is a unique and significant finding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date18 Jul 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jul 2024

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