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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Why Do Some Children Thrive in Adversity and Others Fail

The  question the researchers posed themselves was:  Why  do

some children succeed in face of adversity while  others–growing

up in the same circumstances–fail?  A corollary to this question

might  be:  Why do some children–who have all the advantages  of

the good life–fail?  These are interesting questions.

One  answer to both questions seems to be temperament.   The

survival  of the human species depends on adults bonding  to  and

wanting to nurture babies.  That is why most babies are cute  and

cuddly.   Their  survival  and the survival  of  the  human  race

depends  on  their doing this well.  Babies with  even,  pleasant

temperaments  survive.  Abused babies are likely to be those  who

cry  a  lot, do not like to be held and have  temperaments  which

resist change and novelty.

Ann   Masten,  associate  director  of  the  University   of

Minnesota’s  Institute  for Child Development says she  has  seen

films  of  Rumanian orphanages where there is  always  one  child

running  around looking happy.  Although there is not much  adult

attention  in the orphanage, this child manages to get it all and


Survivors,  research seems to show, are those  children  who

have  easy temperaments and who reach out and find  a  competent,

supportive adult who helps them.   These resilient children  have

an  appealing quality about them which is attractive  to  adults.

When such a child reaches out, an adult usually responds.

Some concerned citizens are making it easier for children to

find   this   concerned,  caring  adult.   Companies   like   the

Kirkpatrick  &  Lockhart law firm have mentoring  programs  which

match  the  children  up with a mentor.  One  lawyer  became  the

mentor for a girl, who despite living a life which would  destroy

most people, was described as having a “sweetness” about her.

The  children who reach out come not only from  economically

deprived  backgrounds,  but from all walks of  life.   They  have

learned  to solve their own problems.  They find the  environment

that helps their development, perhaps a church group, or a social

organization  or  a sports club.  If these are not  available  to

them, they spend a great deal of time at the home of a friend  or

relative who offers more support and stability than their own.

These  successful  children have a plan for the  future  and

know  what they want to get out of life.  They are  not  passive.

Schools help them by providing them with the skills they need  to

be successful.  One researcher found that the best predictor  for

later  success  was  strong  reading skills  by  the  4th  grade.

Parents need to be alert to this and not let a child be passed on

from  grade  to grade without reading skills at  least  at  grade


Schools are the traditional place for these children to find

caring  adults.  There are not enough personnel in the school  to

fill  the  need,  however.  Since this is so  important  for  the

success  of  children,   it is  critical  that  companies,  other

organizations and individuals take on some of the  responsibility

for providing mentors.

All adults are potential mentors.  When a child reaches  out

to  you, recognize the gesture and be there, ready,  willing  and

able to provide support.

Posted in Behavior, Educational Reform, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting, Teachers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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