Minority Children Are Being Less Diagnosed With ADHD Than White Children

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Young African-American GirlMinority children might not be receiving the help they need. According to a study published in the most recent edition of the journal Pediatrics, minority children are drastically less likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than their white counterparts. African-American children were almost 70% less likely to be diagnosed, whereas Hispanic children were 45% less likely to be diagnosed.

Early intervention is especially important for disorders like ADHD, because behavioral and focus problems become more ingrained the older a child gets. More than 5 million American children have been diagnosed with the disorder, and it is currently the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in U.S. children, according to CNN. So what is the cause of the disparity?

Researchers say they don’t know the cause of the disparity yet. They surveyed over 15,000 children across the country and followed them from kindergarten to the eighth grade, yet the statistics were largely uniform throughout the US.

This isn’t the first study to notice a gap between diagnosis rates, but previous studies had only compared African-American children with white children. There is also a history of disproportionate populations in special education, but Paul Morgan, lead author of the study and professor at Penn State, says typically they see an over population of minorities rather than the inverse.

“Typically, what’s been reported is over-representation,” he said. “The tendency is that more minorities are over-placed in special education. But when you control for a lot of background characteristics, so that the only thing that you measure, the few studies that do that for special education, (have) found that minorities are less likely to get services.”

Morgan and his team corrected for factors such as socioeconomics, low birth weight, and mother’s age, yet the disparity between minorities and white children stayed. Morgan says he hopes the study will cause other researchers to begin investigating why the disparity exists, but he also hopes clinicians and educators will look closer with minority children who are brought in for assessment.

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