Why American Kids Are 20 Times More Likely to Be Diagnosed with ADHD Than Their French Counter Parts?
By TLB Contributor: Sherley Alaba
The hike in the diagnosis of American kids for ADHD is not something that most people are unaware of, still when you look at the data coming in from our French friends that differences in the numbers are unbelievable.
In the U.S, according to the Center for Disease Control, 11% of school-age children have been diagnosed with the disorder, which means 6.4 million children were diagnosed at some point. That’s a huge number looking at how in France less than 0.5 percent of the children are diagnosed and medicated for ADHD. This makes one wonder are American children really this much mentally distressed than French or is there something else that needs to be considered.
The answer to that lies more in our health care system and the way it defines, diagnoses and treats the condition compared to how France does it. WebMD’s page on the occurrence of ADHD explains how some doctors here unnecessarily give the label of ADHD to children while they may only be having a behavioral, educational or mental issue.
The problem starts with the definition as in America doctors regard ADHD as a biological-neurological ailment that has biological causes whereas French child psychiatrists think of ADHD as a medical illness with psychosocial and situational origins. This is why in France children are not treated with drugs for their focus issues or behavioral problems instead their doctor’s efforts are directed towards addressing the underlying problems that cause the children distress at certain times, which they regard as something not from a child’s brain but in their social situations.
Due to this, French doctors treat the social situation problem with family counseling or psychotherapy which is a totally different way of treating than American psychiatrists who tend to link all the symptoms to a biological root like a chemical disturbance in the brain. Neither do French psychiatrists use the same way of classifying emotional childhood problems by using the American standard DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders according to psychology today. Instead, following sociologist Manual Vallee, the French Federation of Psychiatry created an alternative system for their classification abbreviated from French as CFTMEA or The French Classification for Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders.
The CFTMEA is dedicated towards finding and creating solutions to the kid’s underlying psychosocial issues and not on hiding the symptoms with pharmaceutical products. The French approach also considers nutritional possibilities for ADHD as in some children it has been noted that processed food with artificial colorings, preservatives and substances like MSG have worsened the symptoms. In France, doctors work alongside parents, instead of scaring them, to help their children get better and the parents there are also aware of the importance of dietary interventions. However, in the U.S the focus on medication for ADHD makes parents ignore the impact that our standard American diet might be having on the kids.
Another thing that greatly differs in France and America is the upbringing. French upbringing is quite different than ours, which also results in better-behaved children who are able to exercise more self-control since a young age. Author Pamela Duckerman in her book “Bringing up Bebe” reveals many insights about French parenting which can explain the reasons why French kids are not as quickly diagnosed with ADHD.
One of these is the act of implementing a proper structure or “cadre” for their children. This means that French children have to follow many house and behavioral rules. Unlike American kids, they are not allowed to snack whenever they want instead, they follow four specific meal times in a day and they have to wait patiently for those times instead of just snacking whenever they want. Their infants are also not given the things they want just because they are crying instead their parents let them cry it out and then the child learns that such tactics won’t work. Because of their upbringing, French children get used to living under limits and boundaries and their parents also think that it’s necessary to make them feel loved and secure as therapists agree that boundaries make children happier and safer.
Lastly, the author of the book also clarifies how in French families the parents are the ones who are always in charge of the kids. French parents decide how the kids should act and there is great emphasis on physical activity and sports. Unhealthy behaviors, like too much fast food or lazily playing games on the tablet all day, are also not tolerated and a parent’s word is often the last. This means there is a clear hierarchy in place where kids do not step outside their roles, something which is not often seen in American families.
About the Author: Sherley Alaba is an eagle-eyed wordsmith; a writer and translator, always interested in ways which can help individuals (especially youth and women) reach their full creative potential. Her focus has been on writing, producing and editing stories on business, finance, interesting personalities, entrepreneurs, culture, the environment, gastronomy, lifestyle, and social issues.
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