Why don’t French kids have ADHD?

It is bad enough being French so there has to be some blessings…champagne is one…foie gras another…but for the kids it seems they don’t have much incidence of ADHD.

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. 

I think Americans tend to over diagnose everything and like to label things…syndrome this, or disorder this…

The French holistic, psycho-social 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.

Hmm I wonder what makes French kids better behaved? Is it a lifetime of having their country invaded?

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 sportspractice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of disciplinine. 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.

So easy really…boundaries, saying no and meaning no and a pat on the back low enough and hard enough.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • spollyike

    Told you they don’t believe all that PC nonsense:) Now they just have to get rid of their socialist government.

  • cows4me

    The military-industrial complex consumes the most wealth in the US yapping at it’s heels is the pharmaceutical industry. It it’s a pill or a potion it’s patriotic, they are slowly poisoning themselves.

  • High_Tory

    ADHD does not exist – in the same way global warming does not exist.
    The only things these children need is good parenting and a bloody good hiding when they misbehave. Problem solved.

  • unitedtribes

    ADHD is a behaviour thing. Suffers if thats the right word tend to be outrageously adventures’ and they can’t spell. I have ADHD. These people were more likely to leave England for NZ Australia and USA. As such a larger proportion of the population now have it. As apposed to the French who wont go anywhere

  • Hazards001

    ADD/ADHD…load of PC bullshit…like most of these so called mental illnesses it’s all in the head anyway!

    The parents heads mostly; aided and abetted by the pharmacology companies and their pawns the GP’s.

    • US Kiwi

      stop talking about stuff you know nothing about… i have ADD and Ritalin has saved my life and my relationship…

      • Hazards001

        fuck off I have fucking tourette syndrome you fucking pussy cunt bastard. You don’t here me fucking pissing and whining all the fucking time!

        • US Kiwi

          well, at least MY medication is working…

          • Hazards001

            +1 ROFLMFAO

        • Rodney

          Whaleoil is meant to be the top right-wing blog in New Zealand. Guess it’s discussions like these that epitomise that. Priceless.

          • Hazards001

            oh cry me a river you soft cock…and FYI I am NOT WOBF.. Cam Slater is..and he as far as I am aware is not responsible for every comment put up by a reader.

          • Rodney

            Do you think Cameron Slater’s impressed by the depth of your analysis? Or anyone else on this blog for that matter?

        • TomTom

          Oh. That explains all.

          • Hazards001

            Fuck off you smarmy little cockbiting bitch!

          • TomTom

            Yeap, you’re def nuts. Didn’t need technical medical terms to describe that.

          • Hazards001

            Go pay your student loan sonny