Context: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children and often goes untreated. A major barrier to treatment is the stigma surrounding the disorder, including from the educational and scientific community. Person-centered language (PCL) is associated with positive health outcomes, and its implementation is recommended by multiple professional groups, but its use has not been quantified for ADHD.
Objectives: The goal of this study is to quantify the adherence to PCL among ADHD-related journal publications utilizing a cross-sectional study design.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional examination including a systematic search of PubMed, which encompasses MEDLINE, for ADHD-related articles from January 2014 to March 2021. All journals with at least 20 ADHD-related search returns, human research, and in the English language were included, totaling 5,308 articles from 88 journals. Articles were randomized, and the first 500 were screened for inclusion of prespecified, non-PCL terminology. After exclusion, 311 articles were retained.
Results: Of the 311 retained articles, 131 (42.1%) adhered to PCL guidelines. Among articles with non-PCL, stigmatizing language such as “problem(s) with [the/a] child or problem child” and “suffers from” was found most frequently— occurring in 47.6% (148/311) and 5.8% (18/311) of the articles, respectively. We found no significant association between PCL adherence and study characteristics.
Conclusions: Our findings revealed that over half of the current ADHD literature did not adhere to PCL guidelines. Adherence to PCL by the scientific and medical community will increase the overall efforts to mitigate stigma and increase support for individuals with ADHD.