High sensitivity to stress isn't always bad for children

Feb 05, 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 .

" and teachers may find that sensitive , 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 and families, to determine how family adversity and biological reactivity contribute to healthy development.

They found that children who had significantly stronger biological reactions to a series of mildly stressful tasks designed to look like challenges in their daily lives were more affected by their family contexts, both bad and good. This means that highly reactive children were more likely to have developmental problems when growing up in adverse, stressful family settings.

But contrary to expectation, such children were also more likely to thrive when they were raised in caring, low-stress families because of their sensitivities to the supportive and nurturing qualities of such environments.

"The study tells us that when children are highly susceptible to stress, it's not always bad news, but rather should be considered in terms of the type of environment they live in," explains Obradović.

Explore further: Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes and stressed-out parents lead to shy kids

Mar 02, 2007

New research from the Child Development Laboratory at the University of Maryland shows that shyness in kids could relate to the manner in which a stress-related gene in children interacts with being raised by stressed-out ...

Parents of Children With Disabilities Face More Daily Stress

Feb 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Raising a child with a disability can cause more daily stress and long-range health problems than parenting a child without disabilities, according to a new study that looked at a clinical measure of stress ...

Recommended for you

Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

7 hours ago

Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & An ...

How children categorize living things

16 hours ago

How would a child respond to this question? Would his or her list be full of relatives, animals from movies and books, or perhaps neighborhood pets? Would the poppies blooming on the front steps make the list or the oak tree ...

Preschoolers can reflect on what they don't know

16 hours ago

Contrary to previous assumptions, researchers find that preschoolers are able to gauge the strength of their memories and make decisions based on their self-assessments. The study findings are published in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sanddog42
not rated yet Feb 05, 2010