Why French Kids Don't have ADHD
Why French Kids Don't have ADHD
By Marilyn Wedge / marilynwedgephd.com

In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than 0.5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?

Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological--psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children's focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child's brain but in the child's social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child's brain.

French child psychiatrists don't use the same system of classification of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists. They do not use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. According to Sociologist Manuel Vallee, the French Federation of Psychiatry developed an alternative classification system as a resistance to the influence of the DSM-3. This alternative was the CFTMEA (Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L'Enfant et de L'Adolescent), first released in 1983, and updated in 1988 and 2000. The focus of CFTMEA is on identifying and addressing the underlying psychosocial causes of children's symptoms, not on finding the best pharmacological bandaids with which to mask symptoms.

To the extent that French clinicians are successful at finding and repairing what has gone awry in the child's social context, fewer children qualify for the ADHD diagnosis. Moreover, the definition of ADHD is not as broad as in the American system, which, in my view, tends to "pathologize" much of what is normal childhood behavior. The DSM specifically does not consider underlying causes. It thus leads clinicians to give the ADHD diagnosis to a much larger number of symptomatic children, while also encouraging them to treat those children with pharmaceuticals.

The French holistic, psychosocial approach also allows for considering nutritional causes for ADHD-type symptoms—specifically the fact that the behavior of some children is worsened after eating foods with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens. Clinicians who work with troubled children in this country—not to mention parents of many ADHD kids—are well aware that dietary interventions can sometimes help a child's problem. In the United States, the strict focus on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, however, encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of dietary factors on children's behavior.

And then, of course, there are the vastly different philosophies of child-rearing in the United States and France. These divergent philosophies could account for why French children are generally better-behaved than their American counterparts. Pamela Druckerman highlights the divergent parenting styles in her recent book, Bringing up Bébé. I believe her insights are relevant to a discussion of why French children are not diagnosed with ADHD in anything like the numbers we are seeing in the United States.

From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France. (Author's note: I am not personally in favor of spanking children).

As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

Copyright © Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D.

Marilyn Wedge is the author of Pills Are Not for Preschoolers: A Drug-Free Approach for Troubled Kids

Twitter: marilyn Wedge

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Marilyn-Wedge

4.5 ·
5
What's Next
Trending Today
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 33,236 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Depression Is a Disease of Civilization: Hunter-Gatherers Hold the Key to the Cure
Sara Burrows · 21,734 views today · Depression is a global epidemic. It is the main driver behind suicide, which now claims more than a million lives per year worldwide. One in four Americans will suffer from...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 21,065 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 18,812 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
How Prison Labor Is the New American Slavery and Most of Us Unknowingly Support It
Sara Burrows · 17,760 views today · If you buy products or services from any of the 50 companies listed below (and you likely do), you are supporting modern American slavery
How The Elite Stay In Power
5 min · 13,929 views today · In this video we break down in simple terms the only way "those in power" can stay in power. It's not as complex at it may seem. They need us more than we need them.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 12,501 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
I Stopped Eating Animals Because of Human Rights
Andy West · 8,069 views today · What does the meat industry do to people’s mental health?
Why Donald Trump Is a Gift to Democracy: No, Seriously. Hear This Out
6 min · 7,469 views today · They say things have to get worse before they get better. Well, here's our inflection point, if we seize it. 
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 5,266 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Dear Democrats: An Open Letter from a Sanders Supporter to Democrats Calling for "Unity". This is What it Looks Like from My Side
unknown Redditor · 5,103 views today · Dear Democrats, As the absurd Trump convention grinds on, somewhere in Philadelphia I imagine there is an army of volunteers inflating one hundred thousand colorful balloons...
Frequently Asked Questions about Scientific Pantheism
Paul Harrison · 4,741 views today · Why do pantheists believe in pantheism? What's the evidence for pantheism? How do you know the universe is worthy of reverence? If I accept pantheism, what difference would it...
A World War Has Begun - Break The Silence
John Pilger · 4,539 views today · I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is...
“You Can Have Your Weak Nominee If You Wish” – the Sanders Endorsement Backfires on Hillary Clinton, Empowers Sanders in One Masterstroke
Saib Bilaval · 3,763 views today · Ultimately, what the Sanders endorsement has proved is what the candidate was arguing from the beginning – that it was not Sanders and his campaign that was holding Hillary...
I am Not a Label Invented in the 15th Century, Made Up to Divide Us - And Neither Are You
4 min · 3,666 views today · Human Beings Were NOT Meant to Be Labeled! - Prince Ea Want to watch more on this topic? Watch Plutocracy (2015) to see how race has been used to divide us economically. Watch...
Clinton's F-You to Progressives: This Is How Trump Could Become President
John Atcheson · 3,422 views today · Nominating a political clone like Sen. Tim Kaine is exactly the wrong thing to do if you want a higher turnout
RSA ANIMATE: Economics Is for Everyone!
12 min · 3,363 views today · ‘Economics is for everyone’, argues legendary economist Ha-Joon Chang in our latest mind-blowing RSA Animate. This is the video economists don’t want you to see! Chang explains...
Carl Sagan: We Are One Planet
4 min · 3,277 views today · A stirring speech by the legendary cosmologist Carl Sagan, on the evolution of human consciousness. Decades old but still highly applicable today. "More of us flee from war...
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 3,270 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Recipe for Clinton / Kaine Lemonade
Michael Phillips · 2,598 views today · Hillary Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine for VP may trigger the sea change progressives have been dreaming of and working towards for decades. Please hear me out.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Why French Kids Don't have ADHD