Living with ADHD in contemporary Poland: an ethnography of a psychiatric disorder using childhood studies methodology is an ethnographic research project focused on the experiences of Polish children in an early school age (6-13 years old) who were diagnosed with the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD. I want to understand how, in the course of everyday life, their experiences and their sense of self emerge and are actively negotiated in the social field.

The main research objectives:

To record children’s „voices” about their experiences of ADHD

Inspired by the childhood studies perspective, where one of the main objectives are:

  • creation of a space for children where they could voice their opinions,
  • conducting a research “with” children and not “about” children, i.e. to treat children as active research participants,

I plan to record children’s voices about the disorder and the ways in which its diagnosis influences their everyday lives, as well as about ways in which it influences their modes of cognizing and feeling themselves, their bodies, their behaviors and their relationship with their social surrounding.

During the 12 months of fieldwork, I will work within 6 families of children with diagnosed ADHD as a childcare. I will do participant observation within families, in-depth interviews with the parents, and I will spend most of my time with children.

Working with children, I will use a specific methodology i.e. a multimodal toolkit that seems attractive to children and which will make it possible for them to express themselves through various registers and instruments. Throughout the research process each child will produce his/her small book about ADHD. Among others, it will consists of works like: my ADHD map (collage), a day seen from the perspective of my body (drawing), adventures of my ADHD pill (drawing), a directed play with playmobile sets – school, doctor, recording of an interview with a child about ADHD, photographing materiality, conversations about the photos taken.

To understand the socio-cultural dimension of the process of becoming an ADHD child in contemporary Poland

I am particulary interested in the three main areas within which the evevryday children’s experiences are shaped: family, school, doctor’s office/therapeutical spaces. The field of inquiry also encompasses the transnational discourses on health and psychiatric disorders, which, to a significant extent, influence the policies designed by the Polish administration. The research project relies on the classical ethnographic methods (ethnographic interview, participant observation) enriched by the discourse analysis, conversation analysis, documents analysis.

The traditional ethnographic research conducted within families will be enriched by the analysis of the wider socio-cultural context in order to see ways in which an ADHD child starts to exist in a given constallation of power and social relations. The main task here will be to describe the network of actors, institutions and artefacs and the processes of the knowledge production and the social practice which legitimizes the psychiatric classification of children’s behaviors as disordered (neurobiological and genetic explanatory model of sickness); I aim to show how the biomedical classification becomes dominant for the interpretation of the children’s behavior in Poland.


The research will be conducted in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the European Association of Anthropologists (EAA).