We Have No Idea If French Kids Have Lower ADHD Rates And Other Reasons Not To Compare Parenting To Other Countries

Every few months? years? articles pop up in my newsfeed about how French children have lower rates of ADHD because they’re so French in France.

Theses articles list many French reasons for the lower ADHD rates but forgets to mention (or glosses over) the important point that the medical community in France defines ADHD different from doctors in the United States. Their definition is much more narrow, which means less kids can be diagnosed with ADHD even if those others kids have ADHD.

It’s like defining women as only women if they have a size B cup or higher. Does this make women with A cups not women? No, it merely cuts them out of the statistic we’re given.

Or think of it as having a variety of apples — some red and some green. France is only counting the green apples while the U.S. is counting both the red and the green apples. Both counties describe the groups as “apples,” but America has SO MANY MORE APPLES it must be fancy French parenting and therapy.


But we can’t assume that the other apples aren’t apples or French growers made them into socially acceptable pears. We don’t know that they have less apple trees or apple growers or people who like apples. All we know is that they can only gives us the number of green apples and since the U.S. medical community doesn’t only count green apples, we learn nothing else.

Well, we learn that if we want to reduce apples and women and ADHD, we can just change our definition and our rates will be the same as France and no one will have to eat stinky cheese or be denied snacks in between meals.

Now the French ADHD rates aren’t the only “this other county does 18 things better than all the parents in the U.S.A.” articles circulating. Who knew that the parents in other countries all get together and say: “Let’s raise our kids the exact same way so when we’re compared to America, we win.”

People everywhere have parenting opinions and actions that differ. The only thing I have in common with every one of my neighbors is we want what is best for our children. For some of us that looks like public school and for some private school and some wish they could afford private school. Some eat dinner at the exact same time every day and some have a four-hour dinner window. Some are over-protective and some are under-protective and some have struck a wonderful balance for the three months their kids behaved until their children grew a little more sassy and they needed a new approach.

So the idea that other countries, often smaller than the U.S. but certainly not smaller than an American neighborhood, have some set parenting code to which they all agreed and this special parenting toolbox works for every child at every age because FRENCH! GERMAN! JAPANESE! is ridiculous.

Parenting is a huge undertaking to which we all get a little credit for keeping our kids relatively safe and broadly educated so they can move on and up and maybe even to another country where they’ll find more in common with their neighbors than these silly articles would lead us to believe.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

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