White Children Diagnosed With ADHD More Than Minority Kids Are
June 24, 2013

White Children Diagnosed With ADHD More Than Minority Kids Are

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, white children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than minority children.

The study included over 17,000 children across the United States from kindergarten to eighth grade. Researchers regularly interviewed parents regarding the child being diagnosed with the disorder.

After taking confounding behavioral factors and access to health care into account, researchers found Hispanic and Asian children were about 50 percent less likely to receive a diagnosis for the disorder than whites. Black children were about two-thirds less likely than whites to receive a diagnosis.

Researchers also found minority children were less likely to receive medication for the condition.

The study’s findings raise the prospect of either misdiagnosis by health professionals or less minority parents seeking help for ADHD-like symptoms.

"We're seeing that the disparities occur as early as kindergarten and then remain and continue until the end of eighth grade," said co-author Paul Morgan, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University.

"It's a consistent pattern of what we're interpreting as comparative under-diagnosis for minority populations," he told Genevra Pittman of Reuters Health.

Morgan said the findings are particularly concerning because they could mean many children aren’t benefiting from ADHD treatments.

Researchers noted potential factors such as a mother's age at childbirth and family income didn't clarify the differences. Teachers’ reports on each child's behavior and learning capacity didn’t explain the differences in diagnosis rates either.

"There just seems to be more wariness and concern in African American groups" about being diagnosed with the condition and the medications used to treat it, suggested Dr. Tanya Froehlich, an ADHD expert at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in reaction to the study’s findings.

"A lot of people are very concerned about their child being labeled and their child being stigmatized both in the school and socially," she added.

A 2009 study published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review found black children were diagnosed with ADHD less often than whites, despite showing more symptoms associated with the disorder.

Somewhat conversely, an April 2012 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found the youngest children in their grade were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, suggesting the condition may be over-diagnosed as suspected ‘symptoms’ are simply signs of immaturity.

Whatever the diagnosis rates, most experts agree the untreated condition can lead to a future of substance abuse, anxiety and depression. Both talk therapy and parent training have been shown to be effective options for parents looking to avoid medication, Morgan said.

"For someone who truly has ADHD, there's so much that can be done to help that child and to help prevent some of these negative consequences," Froehlich said, adding kids who are having problems at school should see a doctor for an evaluation.

"It's really important if parents feel their child might have a problem to get them evaluated by a trained medical professional," she said.