Makes sense to me, even if it involves Frenchmen

Why don’t French children have 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?

French child psychiatrists don’t use the same system of classification ofchildhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists. They do not use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM…..

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 DSMspecifically 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.


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 sportspractice, 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.

Frog den

Frog den


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62 responses to “Makes sense to me, even if it involves Frenchmen

  1. Thanks to EOS points on this topic, I inquired about Greenwich public school policy in this area from a Parkway School teacher who is a French citizen. Teachers are not permitted to speak to parents on this topic, but must internally refer the student for evaluation – after which it is out of the teacher’s hands. However, it is the obligation of the system to provide adequate schooling for whatever type of problem comes in the door. But teachers are not allowed to point out that it would be cheaper to out-source the special services required, rather than provide them with internal resources.

  2. Anonymous

    Yeah, but French children still become French.

  3. Chris R.

    … or one can take it a step further: Tiger Mom Says

  4. Anonymous

    As a psychologist, I agree that ADHD is over diagnosed and that too many kids are medicated. However, I firmly believe the diagnosis, for many, is accurate and real. Let’s also remember there was a popular book that touted that French women didn’t get fat….Generalizations can be quite misleading.

      • Mark B.

        I’ve never felt it was fair to judge a woman’s figure until you’ve seen her on all fours. That’s where you separate the femmes from the filles. Just sayin’.

    • AJ

      “… [T]here is no clinical test for ADHD. Rather, this so-called mental illness falls into the “I’ll know it if I see it” category, where doctors are left to make highly subjective determinations based on their own observation, as well as interviews and questionnaires with a child’s teachers and parents. Particular emphasis is reportedly given to what school officials have to say about the child’s behavior. …”

      • Anonymous

        Actually, there are several reliable measures used in the diagnosis of ADHD, including the CPT and several sub scales of the WISC. However, all too often, the diagnosis is being made by professionals who are not skilled in such assessments, ie, not clinical psychologists specifically trained to work with children.

        • AJ

          •Research has yielded mixed results regarding the utility of CPTs for discriminating ADHD children from controls

          Click to access apa08.pdf

          the WISC-III does not appear to be “a reliable or a valid index of attention or a diagnostic screening measure for identifying children with ADHD.”

          I’ll stick with one of America’s top lawyers whose institute fights nonsense and injustice for free; you can go with the head shrinkers.

        • AJ

          Ah yes, frontiers in science and the latest diagnostic tests — the cutting edge.

        • AJ

          While I may make light of it, having your child diagnosed as having ADHD is something that should not be taken lightly, and what may be convenient for the school may be extremely bad for your child’s future and success. Consider this:

          ‘Rotten to the Core: The Feds’ Invasive Student Tracking Database’

          “(This is the fourth installment of a continuing series on nationalized academic standards known as the “Common Core.”)

          While many Americans worry about government drones in the sky spying on our private lives, Washington meddlers are already on the ground and in our schools gathering intimate data on children and families.

          Say goodbye to your children’s privacy. Say hello to an unprecedented nationwide student tracking system, whose data will apparently be sold by government officials to the highest bidders. It’s yet another encroachment of centralized education bureaucrats on local control and parental rights under the banner of “Common Core.”

          As the American Principles Project, a conservative education think tank, reported last year, Common Core’s technological project is “merely one part of a much broader plan by the federal government to track individuals from birth through their participation in the workforce.” The 2009 porkulus package included a “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” to bribe states into constructing “longitudinal data systems (LDS) to collect data on public-school students.”

          These systems will aggregate massive amounts of personal data — health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status and even blood types and homework completion. The data will be available to a wide variety of public agencies. And despite federal student-privacy protections guaranteed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS PAVING THE WAY FOR PRIVATE ENTITIES TO BUY THEIR WAY INTO THE DATA BOONDOGGLE [emphasis mine]. Even more alarming, the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging a radical push from aggregate-level data-gathering to invasive individual student-level data collection. …”

          ‘Gates Foundation And Rupert Murdoch Unveil New Database To Track K-12 Students’ Personal Information’

          “… In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion. …”

        • AJ

          If the school insists on ADHD testing, then you should bring a lawyer with you to your next meeting with the school. You’ll probably find that suddenly they will shift from being very consoling and having only your’s and your child’s best interest at heart to very confrontational. You may, at this point, think that you’ve made a mistake and forced them into upping the ante, but that isn’t so. What you have done is just forced them into revealing their hand. (Just my opinion, beware of CPS)

    • AJ

      And then there was that repressed memory thing, people actually went to jail over that one:

      “…According to Loftus, therapists operating under the assumption that “incest is epidemic, repression is rampant, recovery is possible, and therapy can help,” implant similarly false memories of more serious traumas through a variety of therapeutic techniques, including suggestive questioning, age regression, and hypnosis. Memories “recovered” through these techniques, she asserts, can lead to painful and destructive confrontations that rip apart families and sometimes end in prison sentences for innocent people. …”

      • dogwalker

        Take a deep breath, AJ. Are you seriously comparing the “repressed memory thing” with ADD/ADHD?

        • AJ

          On an apples to apples basis bogus science is bogus science, but on an apples to oranges basis the ADD/ADDHD is worse. The repressed memory court cases were rare, the result of pure quackery, but the drugging of children is rampant, an assault on children and their families, and not rare but ubiquitous. It is about control:

          ‘Child Abducted by CPS after Parents Seek a Second Medical Opinion’
          29, 2013

          “A mother and father are incredibly grief-stricken following the abduction of their five-month-old son by police officers after merely requesting the child receive a second medical opinion.

          Anna Nikolayev and her husband Alex took their son Sammy to the Sutter Memorial hospital in Sacramento to have his flu symptoms examined, but Anna became concerned with the care Sammy was receiving after a nurse failed to properly address why he was being given antibiotics.

          “I asked her, for what is that? And she’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ I’m like, ‘you’re working as a nurse, and you don’t even know what to give to my baby for what,’” Anna told ABC affiliate News10. Anna later confirmed with a doctor that Sammy should not have been given antibiotics. …”

  5. Walt

    Dude –
    Is there any chance you flew to Florida to buy our Powerball tickets? Cleverly disguised as a Cuban or Redneck? I certainly hope so!!

    Anyhows, spanking is not a child’s sport, and best practiced by those of consenting age. It wasn’t until I was well past first sprouting pubes, probably when I was five, that I understood what a naughty boy I was, and the spanking I deserved. You don’t hit kids. So I don’t think that is the issue.

    The cheese eating surrender monkeys are, by their very nature, a passive, flaccid group. Why fight when you can eat a croissant? Why be aggressive, when you can lay around in a chaise lounge, eating grapes in your silk undies? Americans are raised to speak bluntly, play football, and choke down Big Mac’s. We speak ghetto, they speak a romance language.

    So we get a little distracted and act hyper at times? So what? When the chips are down, we deliver!! If it wasn’t for our ADHD they would all be speaking Nazi.

    And they think Jerry Lewis is a genius. They like jazz!! And have you seen their one great contribution, Bridgit Bardot lately? Frightening.

    Would you take ADHD or a fascination with mime’s? I surrender my case.

    I take ADHD, and a set of balls all day long!! Instead of a compass perpetually set on reverse.

    Your Pal,

  6. AJ

    “… And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.”

    It is only considered child abuse in the US when done by a parent; when done by a public school, even with a paddle, it is considered appropriate.

  7. Anonymous

    Spanking is banned in public schools in 31 states. Murkier situation for parents- can’t leave a mark. Among adults, seems like consent is key.

  8. Anon2

    Did Greenwich Gal fall off a cliff or get angry with you about something? She hasn’t been around for très longtemps. Què pasa, GG?

  9. Walt

    Dude –
    Anon2 asks a most excellent question. One that I have pondered myself.

    Will you always be stuck with just one reader? Are you forever doomed to oblivion, getting no more readers than a Neanderthal scribbling gibberish on a wall? You disgusting little Caveman.

    What did happen to Greenwich Gal? She was a feisty little minx, who provided some astute commentary. Perhaps her husband was caught up in this insider trading stuff, and she had to move to Cos Cob? So she retreated like a turtle in her shell? Too embarrassed to admit how far she had fallen? She should know we would welcome her back. We respect talent, not wealth. Right? You no talent pauper hack.

    And Old Coot? What happened to him? Did you sell his homestead out from under him, for your blood money 6%? You heartless Charlatan.

    And Hiram!! We know what happened to him. That no talent loser!! He was replaced by a spell checker. His writing ability was below slug level.

    And Delving Eye? What happened to her?? She of reasonable voice, and a tender writing ability, that touched my heart. I miss her. WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER YOU HEATHEN SLOVENLY PIG!!

    Anyhows, let’s do a reunion. Without Hiram. That no talent hack.

    Your Pal,

    • AJ

      Maybe they all got disappeared. Sort of like this woman, who got assaulted and arrested for daring to film cops. New Yorks’s finest apparently aren’t New York’s brightest as they stole the wrong memory card. I assume she’ll find a good lawyer, so welcome New York’s latest soon to be millionaire.

  10. Greenwich Gal

    Golly Gee, folks! I didn’t think you would miss me much!
    I have been here the whole time, recently enjoying Walt’s smackdown of AJ – brilliant! And for the most part EOS has been channeling my own thoughts. I pretty much agree with her when it comes to child rearing. Children, especially boys, are wild at heart. They are meant to run and play and unlike this whole French thing, where someone apparently believes that a 3 hour formal lunch with linens will cure all childhood ills (as if!), I think kids need more freedom, outdoors and less damn TV and computer. Still – A full day of what makes up most American public schools is akin to torture. Sit down, shut up and read this hand out. There are really very few talented teachers anymore who inspire and stimulate kids. Why? We don’t pay them anything. Now women, who 30 years ago made up most of the teachers in the US, can get better jobs if they have talent. What is it Woody Allen said – “Those who can’t do, teach and those who can’t teach, teach gym…” Hilarious!
    I am with Walt here – Americans have been kicking ass for 100 years with our rough hewn and corn fed character. But maybe it is changing. Is the world becoming a more “cognitive” place where intellectual computing skills matter more than anything? More than interpersonal skills, practical skills, real world knowledge? This is what the experts are saying. I don’t know. What I do know is that if I was stranded on an island or in the deep woods I would pick the good ol’ boy from the University of Texas than the nerd from Harvard, anyday…

    • I missed you too! Welcome back. You were sorely sorely missed. I felt I needed to sing the praises of a Kardashian to get you come out of the woodwork. 🙂

    • CatoRenasci

      I think you’re mostly right that kids need to be able to run quite a bit wild, running, playing, roughhousing, shouting, getting dirty, and taking the kind of risks that get you scrapped knees and the occasional broken bone. Been there done that. Tried to do it with our daughters, though it wasn’t nearly as easy in ’80s/’90s Greenwich as it was in ’50s California in the country. I say only ‘mostly’ right, because I think the freedom to be wild ruffians needs to be tempered with sound training in manners (that 3 hour formal lunch can be fun, even at 10, if three oenologists are busy teaching you about the finer points of wine along with food carefully chosen to both satisfy children’s tastes — red meat — and challenge them a little bit at a time) and a sound classical education.

    • AJ

      Ah, what smackdown was that GG? That Walt put up a post that didn’t rant about Asian girls and spanking, that didn’t carry on a length, accusing me of the obvious: that I like to carry on and rant?

    • FF

      But what would you choose if the choice was the nerd from University of Texas or the good ol’ boy from Harvard.

      I say this: or this

  11. Libertarian Advocate

    GG: “would pick the good ol’ boy from the University of Texas than the nerd from Harvard, anyday…”

    Imagine the possibilities were Ivy League grads represented in the upper echelons of government and the private sector in direct proportion to their numbers in the general population…. I wonder if there would more mischief in play, or much less.

  12. Greenwich Gal

    I actually think there would be LESS mischief in government if there was not such a blinding discrepancy towards Ivies in the top tiers of government. Frankly, I find it quite disgusting and wrong that there is not representation – and as far as I know – virtually never has been – representation in our Supreme court, of our nation’s finest Law Schools. It is only Yale and Harvard. This represents a truly unbalanced life view! Where ARE the folks from the University of Texas? This is a FINE institution. UVA? UNC? Even some other elite schools fail to be represented here. University of Chicago. People are so up in arms about diversity these days, you would think SOMEONE would complain about the lack of intellectual diversity at the very top of our governmental institutions.

    As to why I think there would be less mischief? The same reason MR. GG refuses to hire from the Ivies anymore. Entitlement. Arrogance. Lack of street smarts and common sense pervades the culture.

    • FF

      Good luck getting a fine position at a major investment bank or white shoe law firm without the Ivy degree.

      • You might, maybe, get through the door at one of those dying institutions if armed with a pedigree from Yale, but when it’s discovered that you can’t think logically and expect others to judge you by and respect your feelings, not your logic, it’ll be back to the garage apartment at Mom and Dad’s before you can say Bulldog! Bulldog! Bow, wow wow.

  13. Greenwich Gal

    Cato –
    Yes, GG’s wild ones do have to sit with linen napkins on occassion. It IS good for them. I am trying to make Renaissance people – able to converse intelligently about world affairs, appreciate Southern pulled pork as much as Dover sole, to be considerate of others and appreciative of diversity while also able to smack into 300 lb. linemen with equal ease. My life’s work. Sigh.

  14. Peg

    You males better watch it. If the scientists figure out a way for women to procreate without you, then all the fairer sex will need is that, a vibrator and good supply of batteries. Au revoir messy, smelly, overactive men.

    ADHD? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

    • AJ

      If the present system stays on course, you may not be able to find any messy, smelly, overactive men. They’ll all be nancy boys, everyone of them. But at least they’ll be sensitive.

  15. Libertarian Advocate

    Peg: But who’ll be there to cuddle with them after a fulfilling vibrator session?

  16. Martha

    Here is a good link with an opinion of the future of education. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with her ideas, but many of them are very compelling. I’ve been budgeting for my boys to be able to afford Harvard, but now I’m hoping they’ll use it as seed money instead…

  17. AJ, you have a weird tendency to see everything as a dark conspiracy which only your rare wisdom allows you to perceive: “an unprecedented nationwide student tracking system, whose data will apparently be sold by government officials to the highest bidders…” When you see a pretty lawn, do you conclude a) that it’s been well seeded, watered and weeded, or b) that there’s a dark and silent plot by ubiquitous, nefarious semi-governmental, crooked millionnaires to plant all those IDENTICAL grass seedlings IN ONE PLACE?

    And yes, we French have many failings, but under-discipline of children is not one of them…

    • AJ

      I didn’t write it Balzac, I just linked to two articles of many that say it’s so, that themselves provide many links. Instead of calling me an asshole, debunk it. I suppose if I told you a few months ago that the IRS was targeting Obama’s opponents you would have thought that ridiculous, too. Guess all the recent violations of the second amendment are my imagination, and that police rousting people out of their houses in Boston was a good thing.

      Here’s from Reuters (not the alternative media):

      “…In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

      Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

      Entrepreneurs can’t wait. …”

      So go ahead and fire away mon ami, bebunk it, show me your counter argument with links. Hopefully, it will be something more substantive than that I’m a conspiracy nut. Or is attacking the messanger the best you can do?

  18. Anonymous

    interesting article. while i generally agree with it, from the perspective of sitting in my lofty perch on my fat ass, the broader social issue that does not bode well for our country is there’s a lot of really dumb kids out there, made even more dumberer by their dumb parents. a vicious cycle, if you will. and well somebody’s gotta PAY for them dumb kids. and their dumb parents too, for that matter.

  19. Anonymous

    lol … homeschooling.

    i feel sorry for the kids that learn zero social skills

    • I agree, which is why it’s sad to see so many children consigned to state schools.

      • Martha

        Thanks, I don’t have the time to get defensive!

        • AJ

          Many people have avoided homeschooling because where do you begin, and what should you teach, and will it meet standards set down by the state? Ron Paul has come up with a program that puts all that together for you, and takes the idea of home and makes the possibility a reality. Your kids are your kids, and contrary to what Melissa Harris-Perry thinks, they do not belong to the state.

          Ron Paul Curriculum: The Story of Liberty, K-12
          Here, you and your children can get an education in liberty like no other.

          Here, students learn the basics of Western Civilization and Western liberty — how it was won, how it is being lost, and how it will be restored. (Not can . . . will.)

          Students also learn the basics of American history, the United States Constitution, and American geography.

          They get two courses on free market economics. They get two courses on government, including a how-to course on reclaiming America, one county at a time.

          Students get mathematics, either through calculus or statistics or both.

          They get the basics of science: earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics.

          I invite parents to take courses and participate on forums — to get the education they never had. Parents do not pay for the individual courses that they purchase for their children.

          When completed and online, the curriculum’s first six years — instructional videos and course materials — will be free. Some parents will decide to join the site, in order to participate in the K-5 forums, but membership is not mandatory. It is supplemental. On the K-5 timetable, click here.

        • AJ

          Just in case you forgot: MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry » All Your Kids Belong To Us .

  20. Greenwich Gal

    So AJ…
    just out of curiosity….describe yourself and what you do. You have such strong and interesting opinions. AND the time in which to post them. Everyone wants to know….

  21. Anonymous

    Raising children is (mostly) a choice.

    Stupid parents

  22. AJ

    GG, I used to work on Madison Ave. aka a propagandist, or a hack if you prefer. I now waste my time arguing on the internet with people like you.

  23. Greenwich Gal

    AJ – There is always volunteer work….