G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.” A rich man cannot be a thief. He must be a kleptomaniac. America, the richest society in the history of the world, applies this use of science with diligence.

We apply it most diligently on behalf of our children. No red-blooded American child would misbehave. Our children have disorders.

In an article entitled “ Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD ,” Marilyn Wedge says, “In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications.” In France she says the number is less than half a percent. Why don’t French kids have ADHD?

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.


The real question is not “Why don’t French kids have ADHD?” The real question is “Why do American kids have it?” After all, we’re the ones who are abnormal.

We really don’t have an ADHD epidemic in this country. Our brains are not less healthy than the French. Instead, we have an epidemic of parents looking for a scientific excuse for their own disappointment in their children, and we have a glut of lazy doctors willing to prescribe whatever drugs parents request.

Hyperactivity? Yes, many of our children are hyperactive. Inability to focus? Yes, many of our children cannot focus their attention on a particular task. I’m not saying that the symptoms of ADHD aren’t real. These symptoms, however, do not stem from biological imbalances that require medication. The problem isn’t our children; the problem is us. We’ve created their social context, and it’s not a place where they can thrive. It’s time to admit that parents are the problem, not the children.

Let me add that I don’t think that parents need medication either. Maybe we can learn from the French.

[Cross-posted at Reflection and Choice ]

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