Kompetent aktör eller psykiskt skör? Barn- och flickdiskurser i konstruktionen om ungas psykiska ohälsa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Mental health problems among children and youth is positioned as one of the most urgent public health issues in Sweden today. Both research and official reports assert that mental health issues have increased among adolescents, especially girls, during the last decades. The aim of this study is to investigate how changes in childhood and gender discourses has implicated the construction of young people’s mental health as a public problem since the early 1990s up until today. The empirical material consists of documents published by state authorities between 1990 and 1998, and between 2006 and 2017. The results show that the construction of mental health issues among children and youth is characterized by an ideological and gendered shift, promoting different ideals of childhood. In early 1990s, young people’s poor mental health was understood as a result of social inequality, most common among working-class boys with behavioral problems. Today, it is framed as an introvert phenomenon most common among girls, who are depicted as having trouble handling stress and performance-related pressure. In this shift, the child (read boy) is initially framed as a “child of society” in need of support, to later on being defined as a “competent child” (read girl) who has the responsibility to create a good life for herself. In this way, the construction of mental health among children and youths reflects how gender orders are reformulated in the individualized era, where young girls who do not embody neoliberal ideals of independency, flexibility, and female empowerment are framed as mentally fragile and in crisis. Furthermore, the construction shows how current ideas about the child as a competent actor has central implications for today’s understanding of young people’s mental health.


External organisations
  • Mälardalen University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


Original languageSwedish
Pages (from-to)71
Number of pages95
JournalTidskrift för genusvetenskap
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 1
Publication categoryResearch