Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


French and Francophone Studies

First Advisor

Charles Batson




autism, social, cultural, france, rates


Autism is a set of developmental disorders that cause social, behavioral, and communication deficits. This disorder is found throughout the world although its prevalence varies considerably between countries. These international differences in autism rates are inconsistent with scientific evidence that suggests there is a genetic basis for the disorder. This inconsistency indicates that autism rates are not representative of actual variation in prevalence. An analysis of these variations suggests that international divergences are caused by the different social structures that influence the process of diagnosing autism in an individual country. This theory holds that the manifestation of autistic symptoms is a singular element of a complex network of socio-cultural systems that determine the diagnosis of autism. This argument is corroborated by a detailed description of the evolution of autism since the beginning of the 20th century. The various social factors that have dictated its progression in Western countries are explored in depth. The direct impact of social structures is established by an analysis of the differential evolution of autism in France. This cross-cultural comparison demonstrates that the differences in autism rates in France are caused by the unique socio-cultural context of France.