In today’s WSJ article by Alison Gopnik http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324637504578567640169906564.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories she discusses the is issue of resilience in children. How they survive adversity, how they develop in the face of poverty, social upheaval, family and economic chaos speaks to all of us about how we navigate the stormy seas of our own lives.
Pediatricians speak of two types of children–orchids and dandelions. As one would imagine, orchids literally blossomed as individuals under ideal conditions and whithered when life experiences were difficult. Dandelions were more resistant, tending to survive and do OK regardless of social and family environmental conditions.
They seemed to find physiologic correlates by measuring RSA (respiratory sinus arrhythmia) in five month olds. These were felt to correlate with temperament. Follow – up studies demonstrated that lower-RSA children (dandelions) seemed to survive personal adversity better– while higher-RSAs (orchids) exhibited more difficulties as they got older.
Can we learn anything from this article? Are we surprised by the notion that temperaments are innate and that we are all the products of nature and nurture? Doubtful. We need to address the issues of poverty, parenting, family structure, educational support etc. etc. regardless of the “flower types” but it may be important to target those who are at higher risk of withering on the vine.