Hello + Abstract from Sarah Kinniburgh

Hi everyone! My name is Sarah Kinniburgh and I am a rising senior (yikes!) currently majoring in Government and English. This summer, I will be conducting research for my Honors thesis, The Medicalization of Juvenile Delinquency, 1940s-1990s, with the support of the Charles Center and the Honors Fellowship, and could not be more honored or excited to get started.

In the United States in these decades, how did the standardization of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment medicalize adolescent delinquency, particularly in male youth of color? More broadly, how did and how does psychiatric diagnoses target deviant youth behavior? Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), courtroom evidence, and community responses, I suggest that diagnosis: 1) transformed delinquency into a public health concern and 2) legitimized the juvenile justice system. In this analysis, I will determine if diagnosing delinquency was a political abuse of psychiatry, a term that deserves attention from scholars of American medicine. Fundamentally, my thesis aims to evaluate how medicalization has affected adolescents and, in the process, to reveal an unexplored narrative about how diagnosis forms and functions in the United States.

I am really excited to research these social dimensions of diagnosis, so stay tuned for updates on the process throughout the summer!