Cultural Considerations of ADHD

Do race and ethnicity make a difference?

Many people in the U.S. come from different cultures. Several things contribute to a person's culture including their race and ethnicity. How a person is raised can also affect their culture.

So, how does a person's culture impact ADHD? Researchers are just beginning to answer this question. Many people think that ADHD only affects white, middle-class people. Research shows that people from all types of backgrounds experience ADHD.

A large study was recently conducted to learn more about how culture affects ADHD. More than 3,300 parents of children with ADHD from different ethnic backgrounds were interviewed. They were asked questions about how they felt having their kids assessed and treated for ADHD.

Based on this study, African American and Hispanic parents were more likely than other parents to feel there were barriers that prevented their children from being properly diagnosed and treated for ADHD. These barriers included:

  • Fear of being "labeled" with ADHD
  • Fear that treatment will be based on their child's race or ethnicity
  • Lack of knowledge about ADHD and available services
  • Fear of being misdiagnosed
  • Language barriers
  • Cost of treatment

Another issue is assessment tools used for ADHD. Some researchers believe these tools may not be accurate for people from different backgrounds. These tools may not allow a child to speak in their native language. The questions asked may not be culturally sensitive. Additionally, race and ethnicity may affect how an adult rates a child's behaviors.

More research needs to be done to learn how we can be more sensitive to the needs of people from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities that are also dealing with ADHD. This may include reaching out to minority families who don't know a lot about ADHD or fear seeking help.

You and your child have the right to get the help that you need. It doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, how much money you have, or what language you speak. Assessment and treatment for ADHD is available.

References

1. Livingston, R. (1999). Cultural issues in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 1591-1594. 
2. Reid, R., Casat, C., Norton, J., Anastopoulos, A., & Temple, E.P. (2001). Using behavior rating scales for ADHD across ethnic groups: The IOWA Conners. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 9, 210-218.
3. Taylor, H., & Leitman, R. (eds). (2003, April 29). Barriers to the diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among African American and Hispanic children. Health Care News, 3, 7. Retrieved May 17, 2012, from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/newsletters/healthnews/HI_HealthCareNews2003Vol3_Iss07.pdf
4. Kelly, K., & Ramundo, P. (1995). You mean I'm not lazy, stupid or crazy?! A self-help book for adults with attention deficit disorder. New York, NY: Scribner. 
5. Wright, P.D., & Wright, P.W. (n.d.). Your child’s IEP: Practical and legal guidance for parents. Retrieved May 17, 2012, from http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/iep_guidance.html