Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Colin F. Hollidge, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


When children experience trauma, their ability to recognize, process, and share their emotions is unlike that of an adult, due to their lack of language skills. Typically, evidence of the trauma is then displayed through behavior, which happens to parallel similar symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This similarity becomes a problem when children begin school, where the tendency among adults is to focus solely on behavior. This study was intended to look at the relationship between ADHD and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) among children and how mental health professionals differentiate between the two diagnoses. Using a qualitative design, five children’s mental health professionals were interviewed. The findings from this study were consistent with current research, concluding the existence of significant symptom overlap between ADHD and PTSD among children. Misdiagnosis can result in the prescription of inappropriate medication and therapeutic interventions. Unlike current research, this study suggests that the best way to differentiate between ADHD and PTSD among children is by attaining the social history of a child. Additionally, the data from this study suggested the need for further education of parents, schools, and community agencies on trauma-informed care. This approach is important in order to prevent misdiagnosis and undiagnosed disorders among children, create more of an empathetic approach to children with potential trauma histories, and enhance society’s understanding of trauma and its impact.

Included in

Social Work Commons