OBJECTIVE. To investigate factors that are associated with the probability of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis among U.S. elementary school children, including child, family, school, and policy factors.
METHODS. Logistic regression was used to estimate relative risks associated with independent variables using a nationally representative sample of 9278 children in the 2002 follow-up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey–Kindergarten Cohort. Most children in the sample were in third grade at this point. Previous ADHD diagnoses by professionals were reported by parent respondents.
RESULTS. A total of 5.44% of children were reported to have received an ADHD diagnosis. Girls, black children, and Hispanic children were less likely to have the diagnosis even after controlling for other characteristics. Living with one's biological father was negatively associated with ADHD diagnosis. We also found regional variation in diagnosis with the western region of the United States having significantly lower instances of ADHD cases. Higher diagnosis rates were associated with having an older teacher, and lower rates were associated with having a white teacher, relative to a nonwhite teacher. In schools that were subject to stricter state-level performance accountability laws, we found higher odds of ADHD diagnoses, but we found no differences associated with larger class sizes or the presence of state laws that restrict school personnel from discussing ADHD treatment options with parents.
CONCLUSIONS. ADHD diagnosis is likely to be influenced by a child's social and school environment as well as exogenous child characteristics. Concerns that increased pressures for school performance are associated with increased ADHD diagnoses may be justified.