Are You An Orchid or a Dandelion?
The most powerful essay in The Best American Science Writing of 2010 is called "The Orchid Children," and the author, David Dobbs, explains a metaphor that has recently cropped up in psychology-- that of "orchid children" and "dandelion children"-- the orchid children being those that have a genetic disposition to certain negative behaviors including depression and ADHD, while the dandelion children do not-- and the research is being done particularly with regards to ADHD and a particular "risk allele," but the findings that are explaining these alleles in an evolutionary sense and turning behavioral science on its head is the fact that these "orchid children" with the shorter allele and proclivity towards ADHD, also have the potential-- when raised in a secure and fruitful environment-- to excel beyond the "normal" weedy children . . . the dandelion children are more stable, and they generally don't exhibit the negative behaviors however they are raised, but the "orchid" children are a genetic risk: they are more sensitive to their environment, positive or negative . . . when they are given positive interventions (I'm not going to describe all the experiments but Dobbs does) they have a greater increase of success; the author bravely gets his alleles sequenced and finds out what he knew-- he's an orchid-- but he doesn't want to know about his kids, it's enough for him to be aware that when he "takes his son trolling for salmon, or listens to his younger brother's labyrinthine elaborations of his dreams," that he is "flipping little switches that can help them light up," but I suspect that my kids might be dandelions, and I think I'm one too-- we all remain remarkably consistent in our habits and our behavior, and we all pay very little attention to our environment, and honestly, despite the amount of time I spend with them, my kids rarely pay attention to me . . . I try to flip some switches, but I think I may just sound like the parents in Peanuts to them.