Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Michael Johnson

Second Advisor

Mark R. Warren

Third Advisor

Stephanie Hartwell


ADHD is a common disorder in the U.S., affecting nearly 10% of children. ADHD puts those who have the disorder at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including justice-system involvement, poor school performance and weaker ties to pro-social institutions. Racial disparities in diagnosis and treatment mean that Black and Latinx students are less likely to receive school-based intervention and services for their symptoms of ADHD, leaving Black and Latinx children with ADHD at higher risk for disproportionate school discipline and justice system involvement.

I use a mixed-methods approach to investigate ADHD’s nfluence on the experiences of young people in and out of school, the impact of ADHD on social bonds, and the influence of weakened social bonds on justice system outcomes. I interview 21 young justice-involved men, many of whom have an ADHD diagnosis, to explore their experiences with school, ADHD, the justice system, and their bonds to social institutions. I also use a nationally representative survey of people in state and Federal prisons to test whether ADHD and the strength of social bonds predict negative justice system outcomes, and whether those outcomes vary by race.

In the qualitative study I find that schools were sources of disconnection and stigma for young men with ADHD. These experiences are suggestive of differential educational treatment and harsher punishments for Black and Latino students with disabilities such as ADHD, which contributes to the school to prison pipeline by pushing students out of the protective institution of school and limiting their options for future achievement.

The quantitative findings reveal a complex relationship between race, ADHD, social bonds, and earlier justice system involvement. The age at first arrest is very young for inmates with ADHD and weak social bonds, raising the possibility that inmates are “off-ramped” from institutions into the justice system too early to form strong positive bonds. ADHD diagnosis is influential in predicting early justice system involvement for white inmates with weak social bonds, but not for Black inmates, perhaps because they have already experienced disproportionately early arrest relative to inmates of other races. The findings from both studies suggest that children with ADHD require more intensive services that keep them engaged with school and other pro-social institutions throughout their childhood.


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