New research shows that minority children are significantly less likely than white children to be diagnosed with or treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In a study published online on June 24 and in the July print issue of Pediatrics, researchers followed more than 17,000 kindergarten to eighth grade students, and regularly asked their parents if their children had been diagnosed with ADHD.
After controlling for “time-invariant and -varying confounding factors,” 57.34 percent of white children were diagnosed with ADHD. That number decreased to 19.32 percent for Hispanic children, 15.73 percent for black children, and 7.61 percent for other minority children. The researchers found that ADHD diagnoses peaked at third grade and declined from there. Minority children were also significantly less likely to be treated for their ADHD.
But while minority children are less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder, they experienced several risk factors for ADHD more frequently than their white counterparts, such as less educated parents and lower household income.
“What that suggests in our study is that there are children who are likely deserving of a diagnosis, but who aren’t receiving a diagnosis, which raises the question of a lack of treatment,” said study author Paul Morgan, director of the educational risk initiative at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Some of the factors that led to an increased risk of a child being diagnosed with ADHD including being raised by an older mother, being a boy, and being raised in an English-speaking household. However, the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD decreased if the child engaged in learning-related behaviors and displayed greater academic achievement. Not having health insurance also decreased the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD.
However, just because these children aren’t being diagnosed, doesn’t mean they are not suffering from the disorder. In May, ADHD topped a list of mental health problems in American children compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was the most diagnosed disorder among children 3 to 17 years old, with about 6.8 percent of children suffering from ADHD.