There is a huge discrepancy in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and given medication because it is based on the view the psychiatrists in that country have of mental health.
For example, in the US at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking medication. Yet in France, there is less than 0.5 percent of children who fit into this category.
In Canada and the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes and therefore the treatment must be biological so these children are medicated with stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall. Child psychiatrists in France view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating the focus and behavioural problems with drugs they look for the underlying issue that is causing the child act out. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problems with individual and family counselling.
The French do not use the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) because it does not consider underlying causes. They use the CFTMEA which is a classification system that focuses on identifying and addressing underlying psychosocial causes of children’s symptoms, not on finding the best pharmaceuticals to mask the symptoms.
The French have a much more holistic view of the challenging behaviour expressed by some children as well as a different view of how to discipline children. They are much more structured and consistent in how children are raised. The focus is on learning self-control early in life.
-Taken from: A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic by Marilyn Wedge.