Social Influences in Parental Decisions to Give Prescription Drugs to Healthy Children

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Sebastian SATTLER, University of Cologne, Germany, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, Canada
Guido MEHLKOP, University of Erfurt, Germany
Vanessa BAHR, University of Erfurt, Germany
Jonathan WOERN, University of Cologne, Germany
Cornelia BETSCH, University of Erfurt, Germany
One third of Nature magazine’s readers would feel pressure to give their children prescription stimulant drugs (e.g., Methylphenidate) if classmates were taking such drugs to enhance their school performance (Maher 2008).

In the ethical and societal debate, opponents and advocates of such so-called “Cognitive Enhancement” (CE) discuss the benefits and challenges associated with this practice. Advocates argue that using CE can solve social problems, as poor schooling and bad teaching can threaten children’s mental health by exposing them to stress or restricting their intellectual and emotional potential. Opponents of CE stress the dangers of such medically supported solutions to social problems. Potential stigmatization, coercion processes, unknown medical effectiveness, and side effects might negatively impact children’s mental health, e.g. by exposing them and their vulnerable brains to the risk of addiction, depression, or anxiety.

Parents are important stakeholders in the decision to medicate their children. However, little is known about how parents make decisions for or against giving CE-drugs to their children and how their proximate and distal social environment influences their decisions. We currently conduct a series of experiments using vignettes that explore social influences. These experiments examine different mechanisms of social influence (e.g. social control, moral evaluations, and imitation) as well as moderating influences of the source of the information (peers or media). In our presentation, we will also discuss the social implications of our results.