Dandelion & Orchid Child
Biological Sensitivity to Context: The Dandelion and the Orchid Child
"Orchid children can really blossom into extraordinary people."
- Dr. Boyce
Empathy and kindness are vital to the healthy development of children and also significant in adults. They are not innate in some and absent in others; and can be improved and developed, predominantly in the early years. The development of kindness and compassion in children is influenced by the interaction between genes and the environments in which they spend their time. This interaction biologically changes the way in which every child functions and their ability to be compassionate and kind.
This article taught me that the development of kindness and compassion in children is greatly affected by the interaction between genes and their environment. This collaboration biologically changes the way in which every child functions and therefore their ability to be empathic and kindhearted. This gave me a new perspective for my teaching practice. I discovered that more resilient children (dandelions) seem to thrive in many circumstances. Sensitive children (orchid children) flourish in highly supportive surroundings. The research by Boyce and Ellis gives significant evidence about the importance of developing encouraging and nurturing environments for children so that we can all live in a more compassionate and kind society.
Dr.Boyce hopes the study will provide doctors, teachers and parents with more information to help orchid children succeed. The evidence indicates that when orchid children grow up in families and communities high in stress and adversity, they are more prone to health problems, including respiratory illnesses, symptoms of depression and anxiety or have problems controlling their behavior. Children that grow up in a protective and nurturing environment have lower rates of illness than less reactive children. The theory indicates that the genes that make children reactive to stress also make them responsive to positive influences and sensitive to social and emotional cues. The higher risk of illness and behaviour problems also allow for enormous potential.
Boyce, W.T., Ellis, B.J. (2005) Biological sensitivity to context: I. An evolutionary–developmental theory of the origins and functions of stress reactivity. Development and Psychopathy, 17, 271-301.
McIlroy,A. (2010, December 31). How to raise an 'orchid child' to blossom. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-to-raise-an-orchid-child-to-blossom/article559956/
Dr. Stephen Suomi, director of the NIH Animal Center, explains what his decades of research reveal about human anxiety and resilience, (2009):
Dr. Boyce presenting Orchid Child, at the Heart-Mind Conference,U.B.C. 2014: