ABSTRACT

Over the past thirty years there has been keen sociological interest in the medicalization of deviance and social problems (Conrad 1992, 2000; Conrad and Schneider 1992; Zola 1972). By now, there are dozens of case examples of medicalization and a body of literature has accumulated that has loosely been called “medicalization theory” (see Williams and Calnan 1996). At this point, it is important to build on this corpus of knowledge to better understand different aspects of medicalization. Medicalization is, by definition, about the extension of medical jurisdiction or the expansion of medical boundaries. In different situations, medical professionals (Halpern 1990), political reformers (Haines 1989), lay activists (Schneider 1978), or social movements (Scott 1990) have promoted boundary expansion. Most medicalization studies focus on how nonmedical problems become defined as medical problems, usually as illnesses or disorders. But there has been less examination of how medicalized categories themselves can be subjects of expansion, thus, engendering further medicalization.