Critical Reflections on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the Criminal Justice System: Swedish Female Ex‐Offenders’ Narratives of Diagnosis [2018]

Recent years have seen an emerging link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and criminal behaviour. Sweden is a leader in this field of research, and high levels of ADHD are reported in the Swedish criminal justice system. The aetiology of the condition, however, remains unclear and there is definite ambivalence in the literature regarding both diagnosis and treatments. Offering a unique qualitative perspective on the role of ADHD diagnoses, this article critically explores female first‐hand narratives of ADHD in the Swedish criminal justice system. A number of diagnostic functions are proposed; (i) on the individual level – via a rationalised explanatory framework of behaviour; (ii) on a societal level – with attention effectively being deflected from social and environmental contexts; (iii) on an institutional level – linked to the medicalised management of offender populations, and lastly; (iv) on a broader market level – including huge pharmaceutical interests in a relentlessly expanding ‘treatment’ market.


The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 25 June 2018