Sociodemographic disparities in ADHD diagnosis and treatment among U.S. elementary schoolchildren

Paul L. Morgan, Eric Hengyu Hu

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We examined whether some groups of U.S. elementary schoolchildren are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD in analyses of a population-based cohort (N = 10,920). We predicted ADHD diagnosis using measures of race and ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, birthweight, individually assessed academic, behavioral, and executive functioning, family language use, mental health, health insurance coverage, marital status, school composition, and geographic region. We predicted prescription medication use among those diagnosed with ADHD. We stratified additional analyses by biological sex. Black children (aOR, 0.60), girls (aOR, 0.55), and emergent bilinguals (aOR, 0.29) were less likely to have an ADHD diagnosis than observationally similar White children, boys, or those from English-speaking households. Black children's under-diagnosis occurred among boys. Emergent bilingual children's under-diagnosis occurred among both boys and girls. Girls (aOR, 0.52) and emergent bilinguals (aOR, 0.24) with ADHD were less likely to use prescription medication. Sociodemographic disparities in ADHD diagnosis and treatment occur among U.S. elementary schoolchildren. Measured confounds including independently assessed ADHD symptomatology and impairment do not explain the disparities. The findings empirically support cultural, linguistic, and biological sensitivity in the ADHD diagnostic and treatment procedures in use for the U.S. pediatric population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115393
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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