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 .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

3.7 · 2
What's Next
Load Comments
Trending Today
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 1,391,125 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...
Today I Rise: This 4 Minute Video Will Speak To Your Heart In Ways Words Cannot Express
4 min · 12,539 views today · The world is missing what I am ready to give: My wisdom, My sweetness, My love and my hunger for Peace.
A New World Order Is on the Horizon - Lee Camp on TPP
6 min · 7,319 views today · The Trans Pacific Partnership has been approved and this secret agreement between the government and corporations will herald in the New World Order! Get set to pledge...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 5,780 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
The News, Unfiltered
3 min · 5,555 views today · UK News reporter Jonathan Pie has a go at David Cameron, Alan Sugar, Nuclear Weapons, Matt Damon's treatment in the press, Jeremy Corbyn's treatment by the press...you name it...
Sweden's Feminist Foreign Minister Has Dared to Tell the Truth About Saudi Arabia. What Happens Now Concerns Us All
Nick Cohen · 4,839 views today · Margot Wallström’s principled stand deserves wide support. Betrayal seems more likely
2 min · 4,623 views today · Salute chronicles Peter Norman's involvement in the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics. The picture of the three men on the winner's podium after the Men's 200m final at...
White Privilege Explained in One Simple Comic
Jamie Kapp · 4,388 views today · White privilege can be a tricky thing for people to wrap their heads around. If you’ve ever called out white privilege before, chances are you’ve heard responses like “But I...
Christopher Columbus Was Worse Than ISIS
9 min · 4,061 views today · Monday, October 12th is Columbus Day, which we have celebrated in this country since the eighteenth century... and that's probably long enough. When you find out the actual...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 3,419 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 3,306 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
A Gentlemen's Guide To Rape Culture
Zaron Burnett III · 3,258 views today · If you are a man, you are part of rape culture. I know … that sounds rough. You’re not a rapist. But you may (inadvertently) perpetuate the attitudes and behaviors commonly...
How to Disagree
Paul Graham · 3,246 views today · The web is turning writing into a conversation. Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. The web lets readers respond, and increasingly they do—in comment threads, on...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 3,128 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 2,905 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
You Are Still Being Lied To: Columbus and the Myth of Human Progress
Howard Zinn · 2,811 views today · The following is an excerpt of “Columbus and Western Civilization” written by Howard Zinn that appears in the Disinformation anthology You Are Still Being Lied To edited by...
Bosom Buddies: A Photo History of Male Affection
Brett & Kate Mckay · 2,176 views today · In my unending search for just the right vintage images for our articles, I have looked through thousands of photographs of men from the last century or so. One of the things...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 2,102 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
This Dude Just Used Jelly Beans To Convince Me To Live My Life To The Fullest
3 min · 2,009 views today · After watching this video, I just wanted to make the most of my free time. I also wanted some candy, so we will call that a 2 for 1. - Rafael Casal
Roy Sesana's Speech Is One of The Most Powerful I have Ever Read: This Is What Leadership Looks Like
Roy Sesana · 1,895 views today · Roy Sesana gave this speech when he accepted the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm in 2005. We read this years ago and wanted to share it with you, because it's one of those...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?