Stigma of disorder and lack of information are significant barriers to treatment of ADHD among African-Americans and Hispanics

Worry that their child will be “labeled,” not having enough information about the disorder, or knowing where to go for help are major barriers that may prevent many parents or caregivers in the African American and Hispanic communities from seeking proper evaluation and treatment for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a new survey of American parents/caregivers of school-aged children.

More than 3,300 adults of varying ethnic backgrounds expressed their attitudes toward, perceptions of, and experiences with ADHD in the nationwide Cultural Attitudes & Perceptions About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder survey that was conducted by Harris Interactive for McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals.

“While the survey demonstrates a great deal of similarities and common beliefs about ADHD among people of different ethnic backgrounds, it also reveals a number of barriers that may be keeping children who suffer from ADHD from receiving proper diagnosis and treatment,” said Christopher Griffith, M.D., a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Stockbridge, Ga., and a clinical assistant professor at the Emory School of Medicine.

More than half (53%) of the respondents believe concern that their child will be “labeled” prevents parents from seeking appropriate treatment “a great deal.”

More than one in three African-Americans (36%), compared to 19 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of “Other” respondents, think that “parents’ concern that treatment is based on their child’s racial or ethnic background” prevents children with ADHD from getting proper treatment “a great deal,” although fewer overall respondents believe that it’s a barrier.

Barriers to Diagnosis and Treatment

African-Americans were more likely than all other survey participants to believe that African-American and Hispanic children are more apt to be misdiagnosed with ADHD, told they have ADHD, and be notified by a teacher that a child with learning or behavioral problems has ADHD if the child is African-American or Hispanic than if the child is of some other ethnic group.

At the same time, African-American and Hispanic respondents were more likely than “Other” respondents to “strongly disagree” that ADHD is a condition that primarily affects Anglo or Caucasian children.

Respondents also cited not having enough information on ADHD or knowing where to go for help as major barriers to treatment. African-Americans (38%) and Hispanics (42%) were less likely than “Other” (47%) respondents to report ever having received information about ADHD.

While three out of four respondents said they would know where to go for help if their child was diagnosed with ADHD, African-Americans (64%) and Hispanics (69%) were less likely than “Other” (79%) respondents to report knowing where to go for assistance.

Hispanics (53%) and African-Americans (52%) cited cost as a barrier to treatment more often than “Other” (47%) respondents. African-Americans (44%) were more apt than Hispanic (39%) and “Other” (38%) respondents to say that access to healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about ADHD may prevent many parents from seeking treatment for their child.

About one in three Hispanics (32%), one in four African Americans (28%), and nearly one in four “Others” (23%) also believe that language barriers between parent/child and doctor/health care professional prevent children from getting appropriate treatment.

“In certain communities, a mental health disorder is considered something that must be kept hidden and, as a result, parents are usually reluctant to talk about it,” noted Eric Tridas, M.D., F.A.A.P., medical director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Tampa Children’s Hospital, “They often deny the existence of the problem or believe it is simply a phase that the child will eventually outgrow. Left unmanaged, children with ADHD often suffer academically and can experience behavioral and emotional problems throughout adolescence and into adulthood.”

Awareness and Perception of Treating ADHD

The vast majority of respondents (80%) say that they are aware of treatments that help improve the symptoms of ADHD. However, African-Americans are much less likely (66%) and Hispanics somewhat less likely (74%) than “Other” respondents (84%) to be aware of such treatments.

Among respondents with a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, 58 percent report that the child is receiving treatment for the disorder.

Of that group, nearly six in 10 (58%) say their child is receiving a combination of prescription medicine and behavioral therapy, and one in three (33%) say their child is being treated with prescription medicine only. Nearly one in ten (8%) say their child is being treated with counseling or behavioral therapy alone.

Almost all parents/caregivers who have a child that takes prescription medicine for ADHD (96%) say that the medication has helped improve the child’s ADHD-related symptoms at least “somewhat,” while 61 percent say that the medication has helped improve the child’s symptoms “very much.”

Additional key survey findings can be found on

Courtesy of ARA Content