High Sensitivity to Stress Isn't Always Bad for Children
Feb. 7, 2010
Children who are especially reactive to stress are more vulnerable to adversity and have more behavior and health problems than their peers. But a new longitudinal study suggests that highly reactive children are also more likely to do well when they're raised in supportive environments.
The study, by scientists at the University of British Columbia, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley, appears in the January/February 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.
"Parents and teachers may find that sensitive children, like orchids, are more challenging to raise and care for, but they can bloom into individuals of exceptional ability and strength when reared in a supportive, nurturing, and encouraging environment," according to Jelena Obradović, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Stanford University (Dr. Obradović was at the University of British Columbia when she led the study).
The researchers looked at 338 kindergarteners, as well as their teachers and families, to determine how family adversity and biological reactivity contribute to healthy development.
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Children's Personalities Linked to Their Chemical Response to Stress
July 8, 2011
Is your kid a "dove" -- cautious and submissive when confronting new environments, or perhaps you have a "hawk" -- bold and assertive in unfamiliar settings?
These basic temperamental patterns are linked to opposite hormonal responses to stress -- differences that may provide children with advantages for navigating threatening environments, researchers report in a study published online July 8, 2011, in Development and Psychopathology.
"Divergent reactions -- both behaviorally and chemically -- may be an evolutionary response to stress," says Patrick Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. "These biological reactions may have provided our human ancestors with adaptive survival advantages. For example, dovish compliance may work better under some challenging family conditions, while hawkish aggression could be an asset in others." This evolutionary perspective, says Davies, provides an important counterpoint to the prevailing idea in psychology that "there is one healthy way of being and that all behaviors are either adaptive or maladaptive."
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