Studying Invisible Disabilities, Inequality, and Family Life in the Contemporary U.S.

Linda M. Blum, Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA

Linda Blum will provide an overview of her work on invisible disabilities, including her 2015 book Raising Generation Rx: Mothering Kids with Invisible Disabilities in an Age of Inequality (NYU Press) and a more recent follow-up project. The book, based on three sources of qualitative data – in-depth interviews with 48 diverse U.S. mothers, observations of special-education parents’ meetings, and analysis of popular advice — examines how the burgeoning diagnoses of children in the U.S. with social, emotional, behavioral disorders revises notions of mother-blame and compels mothers in widely varied households to advocate for their children in the dense bureaucracies of the American educational and medical systems as they wrestle with decisions about the use of psychoactive medications. The book’s chapters also demonstrate that an intersectional analysis is needed to make sense of such families’ experiences. A follow-up project based on interviews with 15 of the original mothers over a decade later – with children now young adults – examines disruptions and challenges to culturally dominant stories valorizing the singular heroic overcoming of disability.