ADHD: Minority Children Underdiagnosed

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
ADHD: Minority Children Underdiagnosed

ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a condition affecting millions of children around the globe. It consists of a combination of persistent problems like inability sustaining attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. According to the CDC, as of 2011, about 11% of children between 4 and 17 years were diagnosed with this condition, thus accounting for 6.4 million kids from that age group. The problem becomes even more severe if we take into consid-eration the fact that most kids aren’t even diagnosed with ADHD. In fact, a vast majority of child-ren from minority groups are less likely to be diagnosed, according to the latest study.

Why are Minority Children less likely to be Diagnosed with ADHD?

It is a well-known fact that African-American children are less likely to be diagnosed with this condition. Researchers who worked on the latest study went even further to inspect this topic.

Tumaini R. Coker and a team of scientists at the UCLA conducted a study to examine ethnical or racial disparities in ADHD diagnosis and medication intake whether medication disparities were more likely to be a result of underdiagnosis or undertreatment of Latino and African-American children or, perhaps, overdiagnosis and overtreatment of Caucasian children.

For the purpose of the extensive research, scientists used a population-based sample of 4297 children surveyed in three waves; fifth, seventh, and tenth grades as well as their parents.

The journal Pediatrics published results of this study which showed the following:

  • Across all waves, Latino and African-American children had decreased odds of having an ADHD diagnosis or taking medications for this condition, comparing to Caucasian children
  • African-American children with symptoms or diagnosis of ADHD had lower chances of medication use in fifth, seventh, or tenth grades
  • Latino children had reduced chances of taking medications for ADHD in fifth and tenth grades

Scientists concluded the study explaining that racial/ethical disparities in parent-report medica-tion intake for ADHD are robust and persist from fifth to tenth grade. These findings suggest that the primary culprit for these disparities is underdiagnosis and undertreatment of minority children rather than over-treatment of Caucasian kids.

There are numerous reasons why this undertreatment even occurs. For instance, the lead author of the study deduces that one of the main reasons why this happens is that parents of African-American/Hispanic children are less likely to seek treatment of ADHD symptoms their kid’s ex-perience. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether this happens due to differences in health care in-dustry, cultural beliefs, or some other factors.
Researchers suggest that pediatricians should ask more probing questions to determine whether a child has ADHD or not. Findings from the study promote the new practice wherein pediatri-cians should consider universal screening of children for school problems to diagnose ADHD even when parents don’t recognize signs of a problem

Symptoms of ADHD

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but previous studies have identified multiple factors that contribute to the condition. Such as:

  • Environmental factors such as lead exposure
  • Genetics
  • Problems with CNS (central nervous system)

The main features of ADHD inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. The symptoms usually occur before a child turns 12. In some cases, even three-year-old children display symp-toms characteristic for this condition. Signs and symptoms of ADHD are numerous, here are the most common ones:

  • Fail to pay attention to details
  • Trouble staying focused
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Trouble organizing
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty staying seated for a longer period
  • Difficulty waiting for one’s turn
  • Strong desire to be on the move constantly

Did you know?

Rates of ADHD diagnosis continue to increase, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% to 2007, and to 11% in 2011. Additionally, boys are more likely to get ADHD with the ratio of 13.2% vs. 5.6%.


ADHD is a condition that affects millions of children in the US and the entire world. In fact, rates of the condition are increasing and according to the latest study, children from minority groups are usually underdiagnosed and undertreated. Reasons for these negative trends are numerous, but importance of the survey is increasing awareness of these unfortunate scenarios and urging pediatricians to implement certain measures that will allow them to spot ADHD in a child even when a parent doesn’t.


Contributor : Dr. Ahmed Zayed ()

This Article Has Been Published on August 31, 2016 and Last Modified on December 10, 2018

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain Shams University. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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