Welcome to the generation of spoiled brats. We cry, we whine and we always get what we want from childhood on. This is especially true in a country like the United States, where a common way of raising your kids includes letting them do whatever they want. Many American children are raised in an environment devoid of strict rules and limits, which shows in their mental and physical development. In “Bringing Up Bebe,” author Pamela Druckerman suggests that one consequence of this is the high number of kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the U.S. Psychology Today magazine says that number is about 9 percent. That same statistic in France? Only 0.5 percent. This demonstrates that the stricter parenting styles commonly used in France are having a positive impact on their children’s ability to focus.
The biggest explanation for this gap comes from each country’s definition of ADHD. In the U.S., a kid is deemed to have ADHD as soon as they behave a little more hyperactively than their counterparts. ADHD is considered to be a disease that manifests in physical symptoms, and it is usually treated with a buttload of pills in America: “About half of preschoolers with ADHD were taking medication for ADHD, and about one in four were treated only with medication,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Approximately 11 percent of children 4 to 17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011,” adds a survey entitled “Parent-Report of Health Care Provider-Diagnosis and Medication Treatment for ADHD,” and they are then forced to take “calming pills” for the rest of their childhood — maybe even adolescence. About 25,000 students attend UCSD, so statistically speaking, about 2,500 would be diagnosed with ADHD during childhood.
This causes a major problem. Children truly suffering from this disease do not get the necessary care, and children who are energetic and easily distracted by an overly stimulating environment see their growth altered by the quantity of pills ingurgitated. The situation is handled very differently in France, where the disease is considered to be psychological as opposed to physiological. This reduces the number of diagnosed children. Care2 states that “French child psychiatrists 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.” As the child’s environment leads them to act out, they should be treated with therapy or changes in lifestyle, which is generally controlled by their parents.
Care2 continues, saying that “in addition, child psychiatrists in France don’t use the same system of classification of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists, and their definition of ADHD is not as broad as in the American system,” leading to more accurate diagnostics.
One last reason for this gap in ADHD diagnosis is provided by Marilyn Wedge in Psychology Today: French children learn self-control and understand the rules, established by the parents, whereas in the American family, the child holds more power than they can handle.