In 2011, 6.4 million (nearly 10%) of American children ages 4-17 had ever been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although many diagnosed children fall into a clinical “gray area” in terms of meeting diagnostic criteria, it is unclear whether diagnosing children with less severe ADHD improves or impedes later learning-related behaviors and academic achievement. Using a sample of 7,830 kindergartners from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), I find that, especially among children with less severe ADHD, an early ADHD diagnosis was associated with significantly lower learning-related behaviors and academic achievement, net of cognitive abilities and mother and teacher rated ADHD-related behaviors measured shortly before diagnosis. Medication partially offset the negative diagnosis-achievement relationship. Results suggest that, for children with less severe ADHD, an ADHD diagnosis may trigger a negative social labeling process that is associated with poor learning-related behaviors and academic achievement.
Year of publication