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Social Class, Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Child Well-Being

January 5, 2021

Jayanti Owens recently wrote, "Social Class, Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Child Well-Being." In it, Owens explores the positive and negative effects and implications of ADHD diagnoses in children. Her research is based on disentangling the effects of a positive diagnosis from that of children’s underlying behaviors, social contexts, and medication treatment.

Owens won the 2021 Outstanding Publication Award from American Sociological Association section on "Sociology of Disability & Society" for her paper entitled: "Social Class, Diagnoses of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Child Well-Being."


How does a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect children’s perceived self-competence and ultimately, teacher-rated social and academic behaviors at school? Does this diagnostic effect vary for children from high socioeconomic status (SES) as opposed to low-SES backgrounds?

Diagnosis can bring positives, like proper treatment, extra testing time, and social support, but may also trigger negatives, like stigmatization. Although rates of diagnosis are high across SES groups, the balance of positive and negative consequences of diagnosis may differ by SES. In high-SES communities, mental health diagnoses are less stigmatized and parents have greater ability to connect children to support resources, suggesting greater positive effects of diagnosis for high-SES children. Alternatively, the greater academic pressure present in high-SES communities may amplify the negative effects of mental health stigma, suggesting larger negative diagnostic effects.