Gender and race differences in treatment rates for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are well documented but poorly understood. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study examines parental help-seeking steps for elementary school students at high risk for ADHD.
Parents of 259 students (male/female, African American/Caucasian) identified as being at high risk for ADHD completed diagnostic interviews and provided detailed accounts of help-seeking activities since they first became concerned about their child. Help-seeking steps (n=1,590) were analyzed using two methods: inductive analysis based on grounded theory, and deductive quantitative analysis of coded data derived from application of the network-episode model, merged subsequently with demographic and other characteristics.
The inductive analysis revealed unique parental perceptions of their children's sick role and of the agents of identification and intervention for each of the four groups. Deductive analysis showed significant variations by race and gender in consultation experiences, in the person or entity being consulted and in the transactions occurring in the consultation, and in illness careers.
ADHD symptoms are interpreted as having different implications for the sick role and the intervention, dependent on a child's gender and race. Educational interventions need to address cultural stereotypes contributing to inequitable access to treatment.