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ADHD Primarily a Diagnosis for White Students

Tingley-021 color webOver the nearly four years I’ve written this blog, I’ve covered lots of topics.  One that has been of recurring interest to me is the burgeoning numbers of kids diagnosed with ADHD over the last 15 years. 

Today Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the most common mental health condition, occurring much more often in boys than girls.  But now a new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that beginning in kindergarten, white students are far more likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD than are African-Americans, Hispanics, or other races or ethnicities.

Besides being male, other factors that increase a child’s incidence of ADHD diagnosis, according to the study, are being raised by an older mother, being raised in an English-speaking household, and presenting problems behaviors.  Factors that decrease a child’s risk include attentive behavior at school, greater academic achievement, and not having health insurance.

The lead author of the study, quoted in USA Today, says, “There’s no reason to think that minority children are less likely to have ADHD than white children.”  Morgan, an associate professor of education at Penn State University, believes that children of color are under-diagnosed.  The study found that compared with white children, the odds of an ADHD diagnosis were 69% lower for black children, 50% lower for Hispanic children, and 40% lower for children of other races or ethnicities.

Actually, I’d have to differ with Professor Morgan:  There may very well be reason to think that minority children are less likely to have ADHD and some of them may be cultural.  On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to assume that non-white students are under-diagnosed.  Maybe it’s the other way ADHD-4 around – that white children are over-diagnosed.  In point of fact, the study concludes that perhaps more research is needed to explain the differences in the apparent occurrence of ADHD in various populations.

There still remains a great deal that we don’t know and can’t explain about ADHD.  Given the rapidly increasing number of kids diagnosed with the condition, let’s hope we see more studies and assessments of current practices.

As I noted at the beginning, I’ve been writing “Practical Leadership” for almost four years.  I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about education and kids and exploring topics that matter to the people who do the job on a daily basis. This is my last posting, and I want to thank Scholastic for hosting the blog during this time.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.