OBJECTIVE: The authors' goal was to explore the nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in African American children, which has received scant attention by psychiatric researchers. METHOD: Subjects were 19 African American children with DSM-III-R ADHD and 24 African American children without ADHD. Ethnically sensitive methods were used to evaluate the children comprehensively. The findings were compared with those from an earlier study of Caucasian children with ADHD. RESULTS: African American children with ADHD had higher levels of psychiatric disorders other than ADHD than did African American children who did not have ADHD. CONCLUSIONS: Among African American children, ADHD may be characterized by a narrower pattern of psychiatric comorbidity and dysfunction than has been observed in Caucasians. Given the small number of subjects studied, these findings are preliminary and must be replicated to confirm their validity.