Challenges in ADHD care for ethnic minority children: A review of the current literature

Transcult Psychiatry. 2020 Jun;57(3):468-483. doi: 10.1177/1363461520902885. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


While attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been extensively studied in the past decades, the role of social and cultural practices in its assessment, diagnosis, and treatment has been often overlooked. This selective review provides an overview of research that explores social and cultural influences on help-seeking behavior in ethnic minority children with ADHD. Studies were selected that address cultural diversity in three areas of ADHD help-seeking: problem recognition, access to mental health services, and treatment. Special attention was given to studies of treatment selection and adherence in minority groups. Findings suggested that cultural disparities in ADHD care among ethnic minority children occur in the early stages of problem recognition, through service selection, and in the quality of treatment. Ethnic minority children were less likely than their nonminority counterparts to be diagnosed with ADHD and its comorbid conditions and less likely to be prescribed and adhere to stimulant drug treatment. These differences reflect cultural diversity in norms and attitudes towards mental health issues (e.g., fear of social stigma) as well as limited access to qualified health care. Paradoxically, cultural, racial, and language bias may also lead to the overidentification of ethnic minority children as disabled and to higher ratings of ADHD symptoms. This review highlights the importance of sociocultural factors in understanding developmental psychopathology and help-seeking behavior. In addition, it further supports calls for increasing cultural competence in communications during clinical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment in minority communities. Clinical, theoretical, and methodological considerations for future research are discussed.

Keywords: ADHD; culture; ethnic minorities; service utilization; treatment adherence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Patient Compliance