A new study shows that white children are more likely than other children to be overdiagnosed and overtreated with ADHD
The main point
At an alarming rate, primary school-aged white children are being misdiagnosed and overtreated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is the primary result of our most recent research that has been published in a scholarly journal.
We looked examined information from 1,070 primary school students in the United States who had shown above-average behavioural, academic, or executive performance in the year prior to their first ADHD diagnosis. Because of this, we discounted the possibility that these kids had ADHD. Children who are diagnosed and treated for ADHD are expected to exhibit inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive behaviours on a regular basis that have a negative impact on their daily functioning and lead to below-average academic or social development.
When comparing the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses across white and nonwhite students with above-average academic success in elementary school, 27% of white students and 19% of nonwhite students were found to have the disorder. A little over 20% of white kids and 14% of minority kids were taking medication for ADHD. Children who were previously well-behaved in class are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if they are Caucasian (13% vs 8%). These differences could not be accounted for by differences in families' socioeconomic position or the ages of the children included.
We did discover that primary school-aged children with above-average behavioural, academic, or executive performance seldom get a diagnosis and subsequent treatment for ADHD. Less than five percent of this population was diagnosed with ADHD and received treatment. Our results are in line with those of other studies looking at racial and ethnic differences among kids who aren't ADHD.
The significance of this
The incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among American children and adolescents has risen dramatically over the last 20 years, from 6% to 10%. This pattern may be related to an increase in unnecessary diagnoses. A growing number of kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, and the frequency is rising even among those with milder symptoms.
Overdiagnosis causes mental health services to be overburdened and diverted from children who really need them. Overdiagnosis may also add to prejudice and doubt about those who are handicapped even somewhat.
Diagnosis and treatment of ADHD have been found to be effective for a greater proportion of children with severe ADHD symptoms and deficits. However, a diagnosis of ADHD may have negative effects on academic performance and conduct in primary school for the smaller group of children with no or moderate symptoms.
Compared to typically developing children, children with moderate ADHD may be more prone to have negative ability beliefs that impede learning and behaviour. Unnecessary pharmaceutical use may cause serious adverse effects in children, including drowsiness and loss of appetite.
What isn't fully understood at this point
Why white elementary school students are overdiagnosed and overtreated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mystery. It's possible that white families are more open to the idea of ADHD as a legitimate medical problem, and hence more inclined to seek diagnosis and therapies for their children. The few available evidence implies that some parents are seeking ADHD diagnoses and drugs for their children in an effort to improve their academic performance.
Our data collection stopped before we could determine whether or not white students are overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD in middle and high school.
The Next Step
Scientists have consistently asked for studies into whether or not ADHD is being overdiagnosed and overtreated. We are expanding our study by looking at whether racial and ethnic differences in ADHD diagnosis and treatment exist for boys and girls. A Discussion