Much to the surprise of experts, minority children are less likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to white children. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health determined that seven percent of white children are diagnosed with ADHD by the eighth grade, compared to just three percent of black and Hispanic children.

A research team from the Pennsylvania State University in University Park analyzed 15,100 children in kindergarten from 1998 to 1999 using questionnaires issued to parents. After the initial survey in kindergarten, parents were asked to check in at first, third, fifth, and eighth grade to scan for signs of ADHD.

Lead researcher Paul Morgan also consulted with the children's school teachers to track each child's behavior and learning. The study's findings established that while seven percent of white children were diagnosed with ADHD by the eighth grade, only three percent of minority children were diagnosed in that same age group.

"We're seeing that the disparities occur as early as kindergarten and then remain and continue until the end of eighth grade. It's a consistent pattern of what we're interpreting as comparative underdiagnosis for minority populations," Morgan explained to Reuters Health.

"If you've got certain groups of kids with a disorder who are not being picked up ... they might not be accessing treatment that can help in terms of their school-based functioning."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's data, around 5.4 million children between the ages of four and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007. And, 13.2 percent of those diagnosed are boys compared to 5.6 percent of girls.

The results of Morgan's analysis also determined that white children who are diagnosed with the disorder are also more likely to be prescribed ADHD medication, such as Adderall and Ritalin. Doctor's inclination to overprescribe these neuroenhancing drugs has led to intervention by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

The specific risk factors that can arise due to the overindulgence of "study drugs," as they've come to be known, are featured in a position paper released by AAN's Dr. William Graf.

"The physician should talk to the child about the request, as it may reflect other medical, social or psychological motivations such as anxiety, depression or insomnia," Graf stated.

"There are alternatives to neuroenhancements available, including maintaining good sleep, nutrition, study habits and exercise regimens."

Source: Staff J, Hillemeier M, Farkas G, Maczuga S, Morgan P. "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in ADHD Diagnosis From Kindergarten to Eighth Grade." Pediatrics. 2013.