Politics & Policy

ADHD: Do the French Know Better?

New research by the CDC reveals that 6.4 million American children have been diagnosed with ADHD — an increase of 43 percent since 2003. That’s two million more children since 2007, indicating that more than one out of ten kids have received the diagnosis, according to a parent survey. There was also a rise in the use of medication.

Since the last survey taken in 2007, there has been a 28% increase in children taking drugs to manage the disorder. More than 3.5 million children in the 4 to 17 age group, or 6%, are taking ADHD medications, the survey found.

Some experts are not alarmed, saying that public awareness and new diagnostic tools have helped more families identify their children’s symptoms. More children being diagnosed and treated is good news, right?

But in France less than 5 percent of children are on medication for ADHD. It all starts with the diagnosis: Here in America, ADHD is a biological disorder with a biological treatment — psychostimulants. In France it’s a different story.

French child psychiatrists 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.

The French feel that pharmacological solutions mask the problem rather than treat it. They also are more likely to take into account dietary influences and child-rearing practices. 

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 believe in setting limits to save children from “the tyranny of their desires.” Read more here.

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