New Theory Suggests that Overly Sensitive Children Have Over-sized Potential: Orchid Children

Audrey ThumbnailAn article in the December issue of the Atlantic reports on a new theory that genes that predispose people to anxiety, depression, and behavioural problems, also seem to endow people with enormous potential. According to this “orchid hypothesis”:

“[B]ad genes can create dysfunction in unfavorable contexts—but they can also enhance function in favorable contexts. The genetic sensitivities to negative experience … are just the downside of a bigger phenomenon: a heightened genetic sensitivity to all experience.”

According to the theory, most children are “dandelions” who will thrive just about anywhere; but some children are “orchids” who will “wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care.”

A growing body of research supports this proposition, showing that “orchid” children actually surpass their “dandelion” counterparts when exposed to positive interventions.  For example, one study showed that children with a genetic predisposition to ADHD improved their behaviour significantly more in response to positive intervention than did their peers without the predisposition.

The orchid hypothesis provides a powerful explanation for an evolutionary puzzle:

“If variants of certain genes create mainly dysfunction and trouble, how have they survived natural selection? … [A]bout a quarter of all human beings carry the best-documented gene variant for depression, while more than a fifth carry the variant that … is associated with externalizing, antisocial, and violent behaviors, as well as ADHD, anxiety, and depression.”

According to the orchid hypothesis, “orchid” children perform an invaluable evolutionary function:

“The many dandelions in a population provide an underlying stability. The less-numerous orchids, meanwhile, may falter in some environments but can excel in those that suit them. … Together, the steady dandelions and the mercurial orchids offer an adaptive flexibility that neither can provide alone. Together, they open a path to otherwise unreachable individual and collective achievements.”

Orchids raised in the right environment accelerate evolutionary progress and adaptation.

The takeaway? Parenting is crucial.

“With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail — but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.”

H/T to @switchedonmom.

Other posts about the Orchid Hypothesis:

Following the Orchid Children Discussion,
More on Orchid Children,
New Research Supports Orchid Children Hypothesis,
How Connected Parenting Can Help Orchid Children,
The Orchid Children Hypothesis: More Research

New to Connected Parenting? Subscribe to the Connected Parenting blog.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe & Socialize

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

New to Connected Parenting?

Check out this podcast to find out more.

Connected Parenting News & Events

November 2009
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Search

Archives

Disclaimer

Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
—Gabor Maté, M.D.

"A must read for parents, educators, and any other adults who want to connect in a deeply caring and positive way with the children in their lives."
—Barbara Coloroso