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In this study published in PEDIATRICS, 4,297 children were surveyed three times during fifth, seventh, and tenth grades. Participants were recruited from Birmingham, Alabama, Houston, Texas, and Los Angeles, California.

Parents were asked questions from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Predictive Scales. Parents reported on signs of oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, and conduct disorder. The children were administered the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for children, with questions on mood disorders. Parents were also asked about diagnosis and prescriptions.

Among fifth-graders, 12% of Black students vs. 7% of white students showed signs of ADHD. By seventh grade, Black students with signs of ADHD outnumbered white students by 11% to 6%. In the tenth grade, 13% of Black students compared with 9% of white students showed signs of ADHD.

A total of 16% of white fifth-graders vs. 9% of Black fifth-graders had received an ADHD diagnosis. By tenth grade, 19% of white students, compared with 10% of Black students, had received the diagnosis. It was found that 4% of Latino children in fifth grade and tenth grade had received an ADHD diagnosis, and 10% of children of other races had received the diagnosis.

Non-white parents also reported lower odds of their children having been medicated for ADHD. The odds ratios for Black children compared with white children were 0.33, 0.34, and 0.41 in fifth, seventh, and tenth grades, respectively. Among Latinos, the odds ratios were 0.38, 0.51, and 0.42. For other races, the odds ratios were 0.37, 0.24, and 0.33.

The authors concluded that more active screening for ADHD, including eliciting parental concerns, is needed for closing these diagnostic and treatment gaps [1].

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[1] Coker, T. R., Elliott, M. N., Toomey, S. L., Schwebel, D. C., Cuccaro, P., Tortolero Emery, S., Davies, S. L., Visser, S. N., & Schuster, M. A. (2016). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment. PEDIATRICS, 138(3), e20160407. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-0407