History and Changing Diagnostic Criteria

Children who might now be diagnosed as having ADHD have been written about and discussed in scientific publications since the mid-1800's. Attention to ADHD began in the United States after an encephalitis epidemic in 1917. Because the damage to the central nervous system caused by the disease led to poor attention, impulsivity, and overactivity in children who survived, researchers began to look for signs of brain injury in other children who had similar behavioral profiles. By the 1950's, researchers began to refer to this disorder as "minimal brain damage," which was then changed to "minimal brain dysfunction" (MBD). By the 1960's, however, the use of the term MBD was severely criticized because of its overinclusiveness and non-specificity. Researchers began to use terms that more specifically characterized children's problems, such as "hyperkinesis" and "hyperactivity."

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is the primary diagnostic manual used in the United States. In 1968, the second edition, called DSM-II, presented the diagnosis of "Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood" to characterize children who were overactive and restless. By

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