A new study led by Paul Morgan, Harry and Marion Eberle Professor of Education (Educational Theory and Policy) and Demography, published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, examines which socio-demographic groups of children are more likely to be overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD.
The researchers analyzed data from 1,070 American elementary school children who demonstrated above-average behavioral, academic, or executive function in the year prior to being diagnosed with ADHD. According to the team, these children, according to the researchers, are unlikely to have ADHD because children who are diagnosed with ADHD and who are being treated must exhibit chronically inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive behavior that impairs their functioning and results in lower academic or social development. average.
The problem with overdiagnosing ADHD, according to Morgan, is that it contributes to stigmatization and skepticism towards those who experience more severe impairments.
“It undermines the credibility of the disorder,” he said. “If anyone can be diagnosed with ADHD, what is ADHD? Those who are severely impaired may be even more skeptical about the condition. Mental health resources are already limited, and people with severe impairments may lose them.”
The researchers analyzed a subsample of primary school students who were independently assessed as above average in behavior, learning, and executive functioning in the year immediately prior to initial diagnosis and had no previous diagnostic histories.
By interviewing parents, the researchers determined whether the child had been diagnosed with ADHD. Among above-average elementary school children, 27% of white children were diagnosed with ADHD versus 19% of children of color. About 20% of white children versus 14% of children of color were on medication for ADHD. In addition, among children who had previously exhibited few problematic behaviors in the classroom, 13% of white children were diagnosed with ADHD versus 8% of children of color. These differences were not explained by the socioeconomic status of the family or the age of the children.
He added that overdiagnosis and overtreatment in general were rare for the group of high achievers who participated in the study. The main finding was that the high-functioning students who were diagnosed with ADHD were predominantly white.