Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Chris Fortin


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is the most frequently diagnosed developmental disorder in school-age children in Western Australia today. It concerns and frustrates the children and adolescents who are diagnosed with the disorder, their parents, teachers and the general community. In spite of the plethora of research associated with AD/HD, dissension abounds in the community, literature and the media over its diagnosis and the best treatment and response to the disorder. Notwithstanding the body of research very little is known about adolescents' experiences, opinions, needs and problems associated with the disorder as research and treatment regimes are currently determined by adults. The research on which this dissertation is based uses the grounded theory method for data collection and analysis to gain insights into the social experience of a small group of Western Australian adolescents diagnosed with AD/HD receiving stimulant medication treatment In doing so this research extends current research becoming the first grounded theory study with adolescents with AD/HD in Western Australia The issues examined in my research focus on the adolescents perception of the impact of their diagnosis and stimulant medication use on their social environment and how they manage their lives. A substantive theory emerged that explains the social problem faced by these adolescents and the complex basic social-psychological process by which they endeavour to resolve the difficulties that they face so as to be able to manage their lives. The discussion includes extracts from the data and literature to demonstrate how the substantive theory Reaching for the Light emerged from my research and the social theories that determine how adolescents view their world. The theory Reaching for the Light is composed of four levels of process; seeking solutions, transforming, scaffolding and potentialising and two near core categories (balancing and fortressing) interrelating as they pass through stages. Walking with this small group of adolescents in order to present their worldview of the impact of AD/HD and stimulant medication, rather than that of adults, was both challenging and fascinating particularly taking into account the different cultural perceptions that exist between adults and adolescents. For those with ADIHD social condemnation relating to their diagnosis and stimulant medication treatment is the general rule so that the adolescents fear labeling and marginalisation. Being aware of the participants' fears I, therefore, lock care to ensure their anonymity at all times. My research presents a new picture of how adolescents with AD/HD are able to manage their lives and shows the importance of involving adolescents in decisions about themselves and how positive, patient and constructive social interaction from the adults in their lives can assist them. It emerged from the data that where support and social experience are negative low self-esteem increased the probability of risk-taking behaviour associated with stimulant medication and attempted suicide. This dissertation that focuses on the social experience of a small group of adolescents with ADIHD is oriented around the belief that with effective support these adolescents are able to manage their lives.