Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 440–458 | Cite as

The Association Between Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Systematic Review

  • Abigail Emma RussellEmail author
  • Tamsin Ford
  • Rebecca Williams
  • Ginny Russell
Substantive/Theoretical Review


This systematic review examines associations between parental socioeconomic disadvantage and childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Socioeconomic status (SES) was measured by parental income, education, occupation and marital status. Results were mixed by measure of SES with no one aspect being differentially related to ADHD. 42 studies were included in the review, of which 35 found a significant univariate association between socioeconomic disadvantage and ADHD. Meta-analyses of dimensions of SES and their association with ADHD indicate that children in families of low SES are on average 1.85–2.21 more likely to have ADHD than their peers in high SES families. In spite of substantial between-study heterogeneity, there is evidence for an association between socioeconomic disadvantage and risk of ADHD measured in different ways. This is likely mediated by factors linked to low SES such as parental mental health and maternal smoking during pregnancy.


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD Socioeconomic disadvantage Socioeconomic status SES Health inequalities 



Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder


Socioeconomic status



The authors thank the Evidence Synthesis Team of the University of Exeter Medical School for their support and assistance, and Dr Obioha Ukoumunne for his advice on meta-analysis. This research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Health ResearchUniversity of Exeter Medical SchoolExeterUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  3. 3.ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis) and Institute of Health ResearchUniversity of Exeter Medical SchoolExeterUK

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