ADHD News & Research

Study: Race Impacts Ratings of ADHD Behavior in Black Boys

A recent study investigated how racial differences might impact how adults rate the behavior of children with signs of ADHD. Researchers found that, after observing anonymous students in video clips, White teachers rated Black boys’ likelihood of having ADHD and the severity of their symptoms higher than did Black parents who watched the same videos.

December 11, 2019

White teachers are more likely to attribute a Black boy’s behavior to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to rate those behaviors as severe than are Black parents, according to a new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology1. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, demonstrated that White teachers are more likely to ascribe Black boys’ behavior to ADHD and to assign them higher scores on the Vanderbilt Assessment Scale for ADHD than are Black parents. What’s more, White teachers with negative racial attitudes, as measured by questions included in the study, were more likely to assign even higher ADHD probability ratings to Black boys.

Study participants — 71 Black parents, 60 White teachers, and 65 White parents — were shown 11 one-minute video clips of anonymous boys and girls of different ethnicities in their preschool, kindergarten, second grade, and third grade classrooms. For each video, the parents and educators were asked to focus on one specific child, rate that child’s ADHD behaviors according to the Vanderbilt Assessment Scale, and rate that child’s likelihood of having ADHD on a 6-point Likert Scale. To the same participants, researchers administered an ADHD stigma questionnaire, a movement expressiveness assessment, a racial attitude scale, and a racial and ethnic macroaggression scale.

White teachers’ ratings for Black girls, and for White students of both genders, were also higher than were Black parents’ ratings for the same children, however the difference in scores was most stark for Black boys.

The researchers did not attribute these rating discrepancies to one single cause, but rather suggested that the following influencing factors require more study:

  • Racial differences in perception of verve, or movement expressiveness
  • Racial differences in fear of ADHD stigma
  • Experiences with racial discrimination
  • Racial attitudes in general

Further research, they say, is necessary to ensure culturally sensitive diagnosis of ADHD in Black children.

View Article Sources

1 Kang, Sungha, et al. “Racial Differences between Black Parents’ and White Teachers’ Perceptions of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Behavior.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Dec. 2019)