Why French kids don’t get ADHD


‘Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S.’ 

In her article in Psychology Today, Professor Marilyn Wedge presents the cultural differences between America and France in tackling ADHD. 

She notices that children are diagnosed differently with the condition, depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean they live. In America, 9% of school aged children are diagnosed with ADHD against 0.5 in France

Why such a difference ?

‘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’

In the US, ADHD is considered as a ‘biological disorder’ which originates in the brain. American doctors treat the condition with biological treatments such as Ritalin and Adderal. In France, the focus is mainly put on the social context and the family situation which cause the child’s behaviour. Treatments consist in psychotherapy and family counseling

The French psychiatrists’ federation even created their own little Revolution when, in 1983, they ditched the almighty American DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and organised their own classification (the CFTMEA) based on underlying psychological causes for children’s behaviour. In France, the relevance of the symptoms are crucial to treat the condition. In the US, chemical treatments make the symptoms disappear.

However, ‘pills versus counselling’ is not enough to explain this situation. The Author also points out that huge differences in parenting styles play an essential role in children’s behaviour.

‘Clear limits, they (The French) believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent.’

As an example, Marilyn Wedge refers to Pamela Druckerman’s insightful description of French parents in her book ‘French kids don’t throw food’. Druckerman notices that, in France, loving and caring parents consistently reinforce clear limits to their children. This ‘philosophy of discipline’ defines a structure in which ‘No means No’ and helps children to develop self-control from an early age on.

‘French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the “tyranny of their own desires’. 

According to the author, this combination of inner discipline and a strong family structure would also explain why French children don’t need medication to control their behaviour.


For more information on this post:

ADHD : http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx).


Marilyn Wedge: https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/marilyn-wedge-phd

Ritalin: http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-9475/ritalin-oral/details

Adderal: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/stimulants-for-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder

Pamela Druckerman: www.pameladruckerman.com


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