Dandelion Children vs. Orchid Children

Flowers are a fitting metaphor for how different children respond to the environments they’re raised in, according to new research from the University of Arizona. “Dandelion children” can adapt to a variety of environments and do quite well, but “orchid children” are far more sensitive to context, withering in poor environments and blooming in robust ones. This “biological sensitivity to context” has to do with how kids naturally relate to environmental stress, and it influences both their psychological and physical well-being. Orchid children in positive homes do exceptionally well, often outshining their peers, but these same children in rougher surroundings are more prone to depression, substance abuse, and crime. Sadly, this latter group is in greater need of counseling and therapeutic support, but  less likely to have access to it.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

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  • Evan

    February 3rd, 2011 at 3:50 AM

    Although giving the best to one’s child is every parent’s wish and it is something that every parent strives for,it would be great if more parents start to see the bigger picture.They need to let their children have exposure and to know what the world is and how different things can be.This would be a life lesson that would immensely benefit the child all throughout his life.

  • AvA

    February 3rd, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    I was definitely a dandelion child. My family had their own business so the hours were crazy for all of us but I was still able to just go with the flow. There are some people who could have never adapted in that way. They have to have a strict regimen to flourish. I guess I did okay given the circumstances.

  • derrick c

    February 3rd, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    if you take one plant from it’s environment or suited soil and put it in another it will definitely have troubles and this is what happens with kids too. and staying with the similarity,some kinds of plants are not adaptable, just as kids are in our world!

  • SteveH

    February 3rd, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Yes there are some children who are resilient and who can handle any change that comes their way. But I think that there are far more who need discipline and sameness, that is the only way that they can function. When you throw too much change at them, and especially too quickly it throws them for a real loop and they can’t handle that pressure. And these are the kids that I think that for the most part you see doing poorly in school and having behavioral problems too. Why adults do not understand that they need to live their lives to make those of their children better is kind of beyond me. Yes kids can turn your life upside down, but in a good way. You owe them their best.

  • Natasha S.

    February 3rd, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    Adaptability is a good trait but adaptability in excess is not good either…When their are unfavorable changes and forced changes brought upon a person,he/she should be able to stand up and call for a review of the changes made, and not just absorb those changes just because he/she is too adaptable…It may be harmful in the long run to accept such changes, you know…

  • Charlotte

    February 6th, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Some kids look like they are able to take way more than they can. They put on a happy face on the outside while on the inside they bury the pain. That is never a good thing.

  • Elaine

    October 24th, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    Surely this is seriously old news! Has NOBODY here heard of the concept of “goodness of fit”?
    The compatability of a person’s temperament with their surrounding environment is known as “goodness of fit”. It is made up essentially of two components: the BEHAVIOURAL FIT and the EMOTIONAL FIT.
    The concept can easily be applied to parenting – where it describes the happy coincidence, wherein a child’s personality traits mirror those of the parent, leading naturally to a strong mutual bond. It is to be noted, that a “poor fit” can also occur, where the child’s personality is so dissimilar to that of the parent, as to lead to a disrupted, or possibly no, bond formation.
    Wow! You lot REALLY do need to get to know your ATTACHMENT THEORY. Try reading John Bowlby, one of the earliest proponents of the notion. Or maybe Mary Ainsworth.
    Really! “Dandelion children and Orchid children”! This is little other than a reworking of Attachment Theory, dressed up as something else.
    Oh, and by the way… the notion that some children can survive, and possibly even thrive, despite disadvantageous living conditions and a poor start in life, is known as RESILIENCE (also psychological resilience/ emotional resilience/ hardiness). It might surprise you to know that this concept, too, EASILY PRE-DATES the “Dandelion vs. Orchid child” stuff.

  • Wayne

    January 25th, 2017 at 3:00 PM

    In general, do dandelion children do as well in positive homes as their orchid counterparts?

  • Thomas

    May 30th, 2019 at 11:10 AM

    “In general, do dandelion children do as well in positive homes as their orchid counterparts?”
    It doesn’t really matter as they simply don’t have as many gifts to offer society. They’re not as sensitive or as intelligent; they’re thugs and interchangeable. So like their namesake weed, they should be culled. They don’t do as well because they are inferior and society would be better if we didn’t waste resources on them. At best they can support infrastructure until such time that robots can do the work. To that end, make them apprentices or them to a trade school if you want to waste the money.

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