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J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2017 Sep;38(7):455-464. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000477.

A National Profile of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment Among US Children Aged 2 to 5 Years.

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*Division of Human Development and Disability, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA; †Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA; ‡Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, Hyattsville, MD.



Clinical guidelines provide recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with specific guidance on caring for children younger than 6 years. This exploratory study describes ADHD diagnosis and treatment patterns among young children in the United States using 2 nationally representative parent surveys.


The National Survey of Children's Health (2007-2008, 2011-2012) was used to produce weighted prevalence estimates of current ADHD and ADHD medication treatment among US children aged 2 to 5 years. The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (2009-2010) provided additional estimates on types of medication treatment and receipt of behavioral treatment among young children with special health care needs (CSHCN) with ADHD.


In 2011 to 2012, 1.5% of young children (approximately 237,000) had current ADHD compared to 1.0% in 2007 to 2008. In 2011 to 2012, 43.7% of young children with current ADHD were taking medication for ADHD (approximately 104,000). In young CSHCN with ADHD, central nervous system stimulants were the most common medication type used to treat ADHD, and 52.8% of young CSHCN with current ADHD had received behavioral treatment for ADHD in the past year.


Nearly a quarter million In young CSHCN have current ADHD, with a prevalence that has increased by 57% from 2007 to 2008 to 2011 to 2012. The demographic patterns of diagnosis and treatment described in this study can serve as a benchmark to monitor service use patterns of young children diagnosed with ADHD over time.

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