ADHD knowledge, perceptions, and information sources: perspectives from a community sample of adolescents and their parents

J Adolesc Health. 2012 Dec;51(6):593-600. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.03.004. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


Purpose: The chronic illness model advocates for psychoeducation within a collaborative care model to enhance outcomes. To inform psychoeducational approaches for ADHD, this study describes parent and adolescent knowledge, perceptions, and information sources and explores how these vary by sociodemographic characteristics, ADHD risk, and past child mental health service use.

Methods: Parents and adolescents were assessed 7.7 years after initial school district screening for ADHD risk. The study sample included 374 adolescents (56% high and 44% low ADHD risk) aged, on average, 15.4 (standard deviation = 1.8) years, and 36% were African American. Survey questions assessed ADHD knowledge, perceptions, and cues to action and elicited used and preferred information sources. Multiple logistic regression was used to determine potential independent predictors of ADHD knowledge. McNemar tests compared information source utilization against preference.

Results: Despite relatively high self-rated ADHD familiarity, misperceptions among parents and adolescents were common, including a sugar etiology (25% and 27%, respectively) and medication overuse (85% and 67%, respectively). African American respondents expressed less ADHD awareness and greater belief in sugar etiology than Caucasians. Parents used a wide range of ADHD information sources, whereas adolescents relied on social network members and teachers/school. However, parents and adolescents expressed similar strong preferences for the Internet (49% and 51%, respectively) and doctor (40% and 27%, respectively) as ADHD information sources.

Conclusions: Culturally appropriate psychoeducational strategies are needed that combine doctor-provided ADHD information with reputable Internet sources. Despite time limitations during patient visits, both parents and teens place high priority on receiving information from their doctor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / ethnology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Consumer Health Information / methods*
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice* / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Perception
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Socioeconomic Factors