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Comparison of diagnostic criteria for attention deficit disorders in a German elementary school sample.

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  • 1Division of Child Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37232-3573, USA.



This study compares teacher-reported prevalence rates for disruptive behavior disorders using DSM-IV, DSM-III-R, and DSM-III criteria within the same population of elementary school students and examines the relationships between DSM "subtypes" and academic performance, perceived behavior problems, and demographic variables.


Teacher rating scales were obtained on 1,077 students in five rural and five urban public schools in Regensburg, Germany. Rating scales included DSM-III-R items (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder), DSM-IV items (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders [AD/HDs], oppositional defiant disorder), and DSM-III items (attention deficit disorder, with and without hyperactivity). Factor analyses of significance were performed.


Overall prevalence for attention deficit disorders increased from 9.6% (DSM-III) to 17.8% (DSM-IV) primarily because of new cases identified as AD/HD-AD (inattentive type) and to a lesser degree, AD/HD-HI (hyperactive-impulsive type). Inattention in any subtype was associated with academic problems, and perceived behavior problems were associated with more than 80% of the cases that included hyperactivity-impulsivity. DSM-IV AD/HD subtypes showed significant behavioral, academic, and demographic differences.


Application of DSM-IV criteria increased total AD/HD prevalence rates by 64% and identified the majority of children with academic and/or behavioral dysfunction. The data show significant heterogeneity between the subtypes and imply that many children screened into these subtypes require further evaluation to ensure appropriate management.

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