Do Children in France Have ADHD?

Health Writer

I recently received a message about an article appearing on Psychology Today,"Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD," about the low  prevalence rate of ADHD in France. According to the article, only .5 percent of children in France are diagnosed and treated for ADHD. This is because, psychiatrists in that country, see ADHD as a "medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes...They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with  psychotherapy  or family counseling." [1]

The author, Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., goes on to say, "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 the American system, which, in my view, tends to 'pathologize' much of what is  normal childhood behavior." Wedge believes that the high level of involvement, discipline and structure in French homes is the answer. For example she states:

  • Children are not allowed to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are given four times each day and children must wait patiently for meals without snacking in between.
  • French babies must 'cry it out' if they are not sleeping through the night by four months old.
  • Children are encouraged to make the most of their talents - i.e. music, art, sports
  • Families have consistently enforced limits, for example, hearing the work, 'no' rescues children from the 'tyranny of their own desires.'

Wedge explains, "French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives." [2]

It seems obvious that in Wedge's opinion,  ADHD is clearly the fault of parents  here in the United States. Except that a follow up article in Psychology Today disputes Wedge's beliefs. David D. Nowell, Ph.D., states, "In fact, the prevalence of ADHD among French children appears to be about 3.5 to 5.6 percents, which is consistent with the estimates in the U.S." [3] He explains that a 2003 review of studies found prevalence of ADHD to be similar in 30 non-U.S. countries.

Another post on Psychology Today, "French Kids Do Have ADHD: An Interview," by Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., further disputes Wedge's assertions that children in France do not have ADHD. Sarkis interviewed D. Elias Sarkis, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist with a private practice in Florida. He also lived and studied in France for 10 years. According to Sarkis,  _ADHD does exist in France _. He explains that "in France there is a strong negative cultural belief against medication for children...however, children with ADHD continue to suffer the consequences of the disorder"'the reality is that there are French kids in prison, a high rate of tobacco use and kids dropping out of school.'' [4] Dr. Sarkis points out that in France, there is a long wait for medical help. Many parents wait up to 8 months for an appointment with a specialist and another 8 months before medication is prescribed.

Dr. Sarkis believes that change is slowly occurring and the idea of ADHD is gaining acceptance. As parents in France learn more about ADHD on the internet, they will seek help. More centers to treat ADHD are being opened throughout France.

To answer the question, do children in France have ADHD? Yes.


[4] "French Kids Do Have ADHD: An Interview," 2012, Sept. 22, Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., Psychology Today

[3] "Of Course French Kids Have ADHD," 2013, May 23, David D. Nowell, Ph.D., Psychology Today

[1] [2] "Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD," 2012, March 8, Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., Psychology Today