Abstract

We examined racial and ethnic differences in the prevalence of behavioral problems measured by the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL), sleep disturbances measured by the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ), and medication use among children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). We analyzed data from the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) dataset for 2,576 children ages 6 to 18 years of age diagnosed with ASD. Multivariable logistic regression accounting for age, gender, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Edition – Text Revision), diagnosis (Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger's Disorder), and parents' education did not show any racial or ethnic differences in behavioral challenges, conduct problems, or sleep disturbances for any of the groups, but Black children had lower odds of Total Problem Behaviors and Asian children had lower odds of Hyperactivity compared to White children. As a group, children from racial and ethnic minorities had lower odds of Total Problem Behaviors and Conduct Problems compared to White children. Hispanic children had lower odds of medication use for Behavioral Challenges, Total Problem Behaviors, Hyperactivity, and Conduct Problems. Asian children had lower odds of medication use for Behavioral Challenges, Total Problem Behaviors, and Hyperactivity; and had close to lower odds in medication use for Conduct Problems. Black children had lower odds for medication use for Total Problem Behaviors only. As a group, children from racial and ethnic minorities had lower odds for medication use for Behavioral Challenges, Total Problem Behaviors, Hyperactivity, and Conduct problems, but not for Sleep Disturbances. While these results are consistent with previous studies showing that White children are significantly more likely to receive psychotropic medication compared to children from racial and ethnic minority groups, we found no such differences for sleep challenges, suggesting that they are more consistently identified and equitably treated than other behavioral problems associated with ASD. We draw upon Andersen's (1995) Behavioral Model of Healthcare Use to suggest predisposing, enabling, and needs factors that may contribute to this pattern of racial and ethnic differences in the use of medications among children ASD.

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