Research has shown that black, Hispanic and other minority children are less
likely than comparable white children to be diagnosed with attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder, but a new study shows that the disparity starts as early
as kindergarten and continues through middle school.
Among those diagnosed with ADHD -- the most common mental health condition among children and teens -- kids who are ethnic or racial minorities are also less likely to receive prescription medication for the disorder.
The findings showed that "at every time period that was assessed," disparities in diagnosis and medication use "were evident across all of the racial and ethnic groups," says Paul Morgan, lead author of the study, which is published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics and online today.
"These findings suggest that children who are racial and ethnic minorities are not accessing (effective) treatments because they are comparatively underdiagnosed," says Morgan, an associate professor of education at Penn State University.
"There's no reason to think that minority children are less likely to have ADHD than white children," he says, calling the findings a worrisome indicator that health care and education professionals aren't properly evaluating the kids.
The researchers used data in a federal study to follow 17,100 children from the kindergarten class of 1998-99. Among findings:
--Compared with whites, the odds of ADHD diagnosis were 69% lower for black kids, 50% lower for Hispanic kids and 46% lower for children of other races/ethnicities.
--Among children diagnosed, prescription medication use was lower for children of all racial and ethnic minorities, compared with white children: 47% lower for Hispanic kids, 65% lower for black kids and 51% lower for children of other races/ethnicities.
The paper notes that additional research is needed to determine the extent to which some populations may be overdiagnosed for ADHD.
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