There are so many negative things about stress, it is a wonder it doesn’t have a more prominent focus in medical research. A new study by scientists at the University of British Columbia, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley and featured in Science Daily, examines the role of stress in children.
Those children who tend to be significantly reactive to stress tend to be more vulnerable to adversity and experience more behavior and health problems than their peers. This new longitudinal study suggests that highly reactive children are also more likely to do well when they are raised in supportive environments.
“Parents and teachers may find that sensitive children, 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,” said Jelena Obradović, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Stanford University, a University of British Columbia professional when she led the study.
In this study, researchers found that children with 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, whether they were good or bad.
In contrast with what the researchers were expecting, these children were also more likely to thrive when they were raised in caring, low-stress families due to their sensitiveness 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,” explained Obradović.