Minority children less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
June 25th, 2013
01:20 PM ET

Minority children less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD

Minority children are far less likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in this week's journal Pediatrics.

In fact, authors found that African-American children were 69% less likely to be diagnosed, while Hispanic children were 45% less likely to have an ADHD diagnosis.

More than 5 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  In fact, it's the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in U.S. children.  A diagnosis can help kids get the proper treatment and medication they need, and early intervention can be key in helping a child learn.

The study authors surveyed more than 15,000 children nationwide and tracked them from kindergarten through eighth grade, checking in at kindergarten and first, third, fifth and eighth grades for a formal ADHD diagnosis.

"The strength is in the number. It's a solid study ... and reflects the whole country. " said Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland who was not involved in the study.

Previous studies have looked at disparities between African-American children and white children, but this is the first study to look at a larger array of minority groups, said lead study author Paul Morgan.

Disproportionate populations are an issue in special education, said Morgan, an education professor at Penn State.

"Typically, what's been reported is over-representation," he said. "The tendency is that more minorities are overplaced 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."

Even when Morgan and his colleagues accounted for factors such as socioeconomics, low birth weight, and mother's age, the disparity in ADHD diagnosis between minority and white children persisted.

"I think we can say the disparities occur," he said. But researchers don't know why - "that warrants other investigation."

But what this study can do, said Morgan, is alert clinicians and educators to take a closer look when evaluating minority children for ADHD.

"Starting off early is really important," he said. "It's important to diagnose early because the learning issues can compound, and snowball and spiral negatively as you get older."

soundoff (584 Responses)
  1. T.rex

    Minorities are less to be manipulatable, off-hands parents with money.

    June 25, 2013 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cbtx67

      Hispanic mammas have the chanklas to keep the kids in line. Lil priveledged Jimmy is spoken to like an adult and given choices.

      June 26, 2013 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
  2. atley

    because minorities Mothers don't always ask for me time, and family and kids usually take a priority.

    June 25, 2013 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Woods Casey

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      January 2, 2019 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
  3. Gabe

    I had ADHD as a child. My doctor, who specialized in the disease, wrote a book which went beyond race, and claimed that fairer-skinned, blonde or red-headed chilren, were much more likely to have ADHD. If this is true, perhaps the genes that dermine lighter features, even lighter features as compared to other members of the same race, contribute to a higher likihood of developing ADHD.

    June 25, 2013 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      Something to do with vitamin D maybe? Which could in turn be related to how much time they get outside using up excess energy?

      June 26, 2013 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
    • skeptical

      This vitamin D theory is seriously one of the best theories I've heard in awhile. ADHD has increased as the time children have spent inside has increased. I hope someone looks into this. Meanwhile, I'm sending my hyper redhead out to play without his shirt on! ; )

      June 26, 2013 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • hermosa seo

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      February 10, 2018 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  4. Calidip

    As a hispanic, none of my family members have ever been diagnosed with ADHD. Also, none of my family members are afraid to discipline our own or each others children with a good swatting when they need it.

    June 25, 2013 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • asdf fsasd

      maybe they are less reliant on teachers and such for discipline?

      August 9, 2013 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  5. wondering

    I wonder if the incidence is same in other countries with 'white' populations (e.g. Europe, northern vs. southern Europe, etc.) and what about non-white populations (in Asia, Africa, etc.) that would more 'real' science and larger sample size. what are Big Pharma in US implications?

    June 25, 2013 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Eric

    ADHD is a recent construction that allows for the easy medication of children to displace parenting skills and responsibilities onto drugs. Its also another means for displace responsibility of behavior away from the individual.

    June 25, 2013 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kris

      THat is a very ignorant response based on sterotype and not fact. Read some books on ADD, get educated and stop jumping to conclusions.

      I don't disagree that many people are misdiagnosed or that some parents think their kids have ADD because they aren't sitting their acting perfectly.

      However, your generalization is quite wrong and not based on fact. ADD is very real obsticale for those who have it. It can be managed though and isn't something used as an excuse.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
  7. Carla

    And again it is somehow my fault that minorities choose to have children they cannot afford to take to the doctor? It is always somone elses fault. When mintorities start taking responsibility for their CHOICES

    June 25, 2013 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terry

      They will never be accountable.

      June 25, 2013 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • StretJustice

      There are more poor white people than minorities in the nation

      June 25, 2013 at 22:25 | Report abuse |
    • akilah


      June 26, 2013 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Val

      Well I've had it all my life. And I didn't get any diagnosis in grade or grammar or even highschool. got the test on my own in college. remembering when the school counselor told my mother that I was not "college material"; makes a lot of sense to me at least now reading this article. We (blacks) have encountered so many "lone wolfs" that decide for whatever reason to hold back or prevent little black kids from achieving. I am living proof of it. So all the comments from "eric", "carla", "john weaver", combined lets me know that indifference is still alive. Folks like that can't even say that "some" blacks are what they described. I mean...at least take time to differentiate that not all blacks are like what you described. So easy to call you folks that think like that all the same. I recognize that not all whites and non-whites think short sited like these examples. It is what it is though. I also know that no matter how much blacks achieve...there are those will only see us as pathetic.

      June 26, 2013 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
    • Kaitlyn

      Val you make a good point. I've also had ADD/ADHD all my life, but being a white female it was probably easier to recognize as a "disability" rather than me just being a screw up.
      If a white kid is acting up in class, unable to focus and has trouble controlling their impulses and actions, then the first reason most people think of is that they have ADHD. But if a black kid does the same thing, it seems like most people are quick to assume that they are just another trouble maker. The white kid's parents get no blame, while the black kid's parents get accused of not raising him properly.
      That's probably a big reason why more white kids are diagnosed with the disease than others.
      I don't think most people assume these things on purpose, but I think it happens a lot, unfortunately 🙁

      July 10, 2013 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
  8. Carla

    Is this the fault of whites? When minorities choose to have children they cannot afford to take to the doctor that is my fault? When minorities accept responsibility for the CHOICES they make, yes CHOICES. The world will be a better place.

    June 25, 2013 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Calidip

      Article pretty much states that white people suck as parents.

      June 25, 2013 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
    • StretJustice

      Indeed. These people are bad parents

      June 25, 2013 at 22:26 | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Honestly, I believe that a lot of kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD and do have poor parents. And yes, it was their choice, but a lot of these people were a lot worse off in their original countries also. And there really is no excuse for the U.S. to not have a health care system like Canada's or England's, or France's, or many other countries. A system where no one is refused, you aren't raped by health insurance companies (if you are lucky enough to have health insurance), and you don't go thousands and thousands of dollars into debt if you have an emergency and have no insurance, or even worse, your insurance company makes a B.S. denial on your claim. I would gladly pay higher taxes for a health care system like that. And anyone who cares about other peoples' well being would too. The problem is the republicans spew all this crap about how socialized medicine is bad and how our system is somehow great, even though we are ranked 37th in the world when it comes to health care. Pathetic.

      June 26, 2013 at 05:43 | Report abuse |
    • cbtx67

      I would think that less diagnosis in the minority community would be a good thing. They are addressing it better than non minorities, that's what I would take from this article.

      June 26, 2013 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • akilah


      June 26, 2013 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
  9. Marc

    I don't think blame can be placed on an race for this diagnosis.
    In my experiences, a hyperactive child in a minority home is typically disciplined by some sort of physical or verbal punishment and this is accepted as the normal parenting towards a child acting out. The same behavior is sometimes seen as some deeper cognitive/psychological disorder in non minority housholds.

    June 25, 2013 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. patriciaange

    Reblogged this on Sex and Relationships.

    June 25, 2013 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Christine

    I am wondering if a lot of it is BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS? Why is it so prevalent today and it was not years ago? I do know MANY, not all,, parents of today discipline a lot different than we did when our children were growing up. Everywhere I go, children are screaming and demanding.....parents ignore that behavior. Children need structure and discipline.....

    June 25, 2013 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. erin

    ADHD is WAAAAAY over-diagnosed.

    June 25, 2013 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zbees

      How else are they going to over-prescribe meds to keep the industry going?

      June 28, 2013 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
  13. JulieMS

    BEWARE...ADHD or ADD could be miss-diagnosed. the same symptoms could be Asperger's. As we found out some 20 years later. Find out so you can treat and help them accordingly.

    June 26, 2013 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kris

      ADD symptoms can also mimic symptoms of bi-polar and several other mental illnesses. Also, people with ADD tend to have depression and other coexstiing mental illnesses.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    Saying that white parents are worse than blacks and hispanics purely because more white kids are diagnosed with ADHD is a baseless and simple minded blanket statement. It would be equally valid/invalid to say that blacks and hispanics are worse parents due to the fact that their kids have worse grades on average...

    Many if not most of the people diagnosed with ADHD are misdiagnosed, and are simply poorly disciplined, or have low iq, depression, bipolar, ect.
    My guess is that more white kids are diagnosed with ADHD because teachers are more likely to label unintelligent or poorly disciplined(ect.)white kids as having ADHD, and black kids with ADHD and other disorders are more often thought of as unintelligent, or victims of negative cultural influence,(anti-intellectualism, thug glorification ect.) rather than having ADHD instead/as well.

    June 26, 2013 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      I meant for the previous comment to be a reply to Calidip, who said "this article pretty much says that white people suck as parents", something which is neither explicitly said nor implied in this article.

      June 26, 2013 at 01:31 | Report abuse |
  15. Kathy in KC

    I have worked extensively with the poor, and people of color in the inner city. Also some of my low-income clients have been white with children who have been diagnosed as psychiatrically challenged. I agree that people of color have fewer diagnoses of kids with ADHD. Most of that is due to differences in parenting. White parents are much more lenient and tolerant of severe misbehavior, and try to excuse it and assign a pathology to it. Parents of color, especially in the African-American community, take no such tack and crack down on misbehavior early in a child's life. Sometimes that results in abuse and it is a fine line, but most of the time outrageous disobedience is not excused nor diagnosed as ADHD. The outcome is roughly better for the kids of color as I see it because they generally learn to behave in acceptable ways without a lot of coddling, drugs and therapy earlier than their white counterparts. They might be a little rough around the edges but they are not spoiled.

    June 26, 2013 at 01:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bethb

    As one in the schools, I hate to say it but many times minority misbehavior is treated differently. It is more likely to be considered the case of a bad kid or a bad home life and the child is penalized or dismissed by many. If a teacher does approach ADD with the parents they are often not as receptive to testing. I'm not sure if it's from the stigma or not wanting to go to a doctor, etc.

    With white children, especially from more affluent homes, the parents and teachers look for another reason that the child is struggling (as if these children are expected to perform better than minorities and when they don't there has to be a reason). The ADD diagnosis takes the onus off the parent and child.

    Obviously far too many children who do not have ADD but could use some good old fashioned boundaries, less instant gratification, etc. are being diagnosed in the white community.

    However I fear that there are also many children in minority communities with legitimate learning issues and disabilities who just get mislabeled as a "bad kid" who end up dropping out and not reaching their potential. Subtle racism is always at play.

    June 26, 2013 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Richardo Montlebahn

    Its because minority parents don't put up with whiny, I don't want to do it, I can't pay attention except to video games and tv bull crap.

    They jerk a kid up, wear out that butt and the kid gets attentive.

    June 26, 2013 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Joe Camel

    White America you're poisoning your children. STOP.

    June 26, 2013 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jen

    They're more likely to be fed a traditional diet, free of food additives.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      Like KFC and Mcdonalds? Because I see a hell of a lot of black people at these restaurants.

      June 26, 2013 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
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  20. Kris

    I used to think that ADD/ADHD was over diagnosed and was a symptom of parents not wating to parent. Until, I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 34 years old. I started researching and actually learning everything there is to know about ADD. It's not a matter of being hyper. Many people have ADD and aren't hyper or loud or jumping off the walls. Your brain is wired different. People with ADD also tend to have emotional and relationship difficulities.

    My point is that before don't just assume ADD is over diagnosed or that only white children are diagnosed because their parents are too busy or whatever opinon you've formed based on sterotype and not facts. Go, get a book or two and actually study ADD.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Cindy

    When it comes to mental health issues, people are of color are less likely to receive help. Some of this is their own fault. Lack of education, hurts kids who really needs their meds. It is up to the parnets to stand up for their kids, and make sure help is received.

    June 26, 2013 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dye Diet

    ADHD: The Drugging Of Our Children (worth watching on YouTube!!).

    June 26, 2013 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dye Diet

    When we discuss ANY health issues, first we need to look in what the diet is. We have over 3000 food additives approved by the FDA, we eat some 30 g of potentially CARCINOGENIC artificial food colors (azo dyes, especially!) per capita (roughly, based on 23,178,881.35 pounds of artificial colors certified by the FDA in 2012). "Modern" medicinal approach is to SUPPRESS the SYMPTOMS, not to heal. Who can give a clear definition of what ADHD is???? No one... Then how can you cure something you have no clue what it is? Dye Diet Calculator, by the way, may help avoiding most of the dangerous chemicals deliberately added into American food. Not so easy with residual pesticides, heavy metals imported with Chinese stuff and Genetically Modified Food pushed into YOUR BLOOD and BRAIN by Monsanto. PREVENTION, right DIET is more important than PRESCRIPTION OF PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS to children.

    June 26, 2013 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Raven

    Lucky minority children. They are not drugged and not made into "well adjusted" little sheep supporting the pharma industry.

    June 26, 2013 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Matt

    Great article. Makes you wonder?

    July 1, 2013 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Karen East

    Native American children are often diagnosed with ADHD. Most reservations are in rural areas. Schools get more money when there are more children in special ed. Teachers in the public school system know little about cultural differences and Native children are raised differently. When you write an article about minority groups, please include Natives.

    July 2, 2013 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Peak Nootropics LLC

    ADHD goes undiagnosed and untreated through childhood. The problem then turns into fullblown adult ADHD where the adult may choose to seek help. It is important to be more aware of the symptoms so you can identify them in your children. Also, may people don't know that nootropics can be a great alternative to traditional ADHD drugs which are often high in side effects.

    July 5, 2013 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Angry Mulatto

    Minorities dont get a free pass for bad behavior like whites do. So white kids and parents get to say it was something beyond our control and Medicate!!!! While minorities are sent to special ed for behavioral issues and not allowed to move forward academically.

    July 8, 2013 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. rvastag

    Lower rates of ADHD in blacks = under diagnoses and lack of access to care

    Higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in blacks = ?

    July 10, 2013 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Emily

    ADHD is over diagnosed and a lazy way to specialize a child. Hmmmmm I wonder why a kid can't sit still for hours at a time with 30 mins of recess and crappy government food....

    July 20, 2013 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Lisa Mila

    I think there is an extraneous variable that hasnt been accounted for. The higher SES status of white americans compared to minorities is correlated to the amount of money they make. WHite parents typically with higher SES will pay the extra $$ to find out if little kimmy or little johnny has child ADHD.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Meagan May

    Its a stereo type. They won't give minority children those kinds of medications as easily as they would white children. For fear that someone in the family might abuse the drug.

    July 23, 2013 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Melissa

    Having worked in the Mental/Behavioral health field, I know that children are over medicated. "Hyper activity" is often just normal childhood energy. That is not to say ADD/ADHD does not exist. A lot of times it is a go-to diagnosis for parents who are overwhelmed (including those who take the time to discipline their children) or, yes, those who do not want to "deal" with their child(ren). Having also worked in the social work field, I know that minorities often do not have the means to get their children diagnosed, and a lot of times it really comes down to cultural beliefs. Now, as far as having children they can't afford, I live in a rural area where the majority of the population is white, and they have moved here because it is easy to be aided (they don't have to earn their money). Many factors should be considered here...

    July 25, 2013 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • asdf fsasd

      I have never ever heard of this stuff before. you either pay attention or stay quiet and mind your own business. you determine your own failures. why are kids now being pushed?

      August 9, 2013 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
  34. asdf fsasd

    maybe because the doctor knows they cant afford the drugs.

    August 9, 2013 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 20, 2013 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Return of the Jam

    I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and I've grown up to be a highly-successful adult. I still have concentration problems, but smart pills take care of that. I get things done efficiently now.

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    March 24, 2015 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Daniel Kwiatek

    This is totally thruth. I am 31 and I was just diagnosed now Please beleive me. It was a nightmare 31 years long. I honestly dont really know why and how possibly I am still here. Maybe because of HDHD and OCD combined. Imagine having everyone who you ever had any relationship and anyone who knows you jusdging you, accuse ,use, abuse mentaly and phisically, torture, put you in a psichic hospital telling you that you are just crazy, putting you into jail cause you reserch about everything to figure out whats wrong with you and they think you are making a bomb, or cause someone beat you up and you call police for help and they come but take you to jail. your name is already in the system because everyone around lead to it. I feel like I was a Sisyphus. How would I ever be able to compare myself to him if I would be the loser everyone always accused me to be. How would I have all the knowlege I have if I would be this lazy ,crazy, delusional person everyone always accused me of and punished me cause of accusations. How would I know so much about this world if I would be a criminal the way everyone was accusing me to be. When I have a severe OCD and it would never allow me to do anything that could make anyone lose thair smile. How could I posibly would I be able to selfdiagnose myself with ADHD if I would not have have ADHD. considering all the bad record, history and trouma I went thru cause of not being diagnosed and having everyone take all my human right away from me. Do I still have to suffer and spend more energy to prove things I should bever have to prove. Is anyone expecting a 6 years old child to have a doctorate in sciance, mental health, human rights, and knowlege that philosophers have? I dont think so. So it is disability.

    April 25, 2016 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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