Lisa and John Pritzker Distinguished Profesor of Developmental and Behavioral Health, University of California, San Francisco, Co-Director, Child and Brain Development Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive
Trained as a developmental pediatrician and an epidemiologist, W. Thomas Boyce, MD, in his new book, The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive, lays out argument showing that children vary greatly in their development, and the cause is a deft interplay of genes and environment. These interactions begin in utero, since mother and unborn child are influenced by myriad factors — the mother’s stress levels, nutrition, and sleep hygiene, for example. Once born, children raised in the same family aren’t all alike by nature, and aren’t raised alike, either; the same conditions that may work well for one child may be deleterious for another.
80-85% of children are “dandelions,” healthy, sturdy, transplantable survivors who can grow in most environments. 15-20% of children are “orchids,” highly-sensitive, fragile, shy, and susceptible and permeable to the relationships that encircle and sustain them. Orchid children are far more susceptible to stress and adversity, have far greater health challenges, and may suffer in school due to social hierarchies. But planted in the proper warm, close, nurturing environment, both at home and at school, orchid children have the greatest promise and resilience, creative futures, and deeper relationships all made possible through the “alchemy of nurturing families and communities and transformative care,” to quote Dr. Boyce.