IntroductionDifferent as a suggestion of the processes

IntroductionDifferent sources have pointed to different children responding differently to different environments due to differential sensitivity and resilience. For example, one child’s response to the cold and authoritarian parenting style may differ significantly from another’s response to the same style of parenting. While one may do extremely poorly with an authoritarian parent, another may do just as well as his counterpart with an authoritative parent. Different scholars have studied these differences over time. In view of this, this essay seeks to provide a valid answer to the questions: “How and why do children differ in their sensitivity and resilience to environmental influences?” and “Other than emotion, which other themes are relevant to the developmental outcomes of children? Which processes lead to these outcomes?” The solution to these questions will be arrived at using the course/modules materials as well as outside sources such as the articles and videos on related concepts. In order to arrive at a valid, well-considered conclusion, this essay begins by highlighting the basic concepts of differential sensitivity and evaluating the models of sensitivity using evidence from the course materials, the Boyce video as well as other outside sources. This is followed by a discussion that broadens the scope on two themes (attachment and identity) based on the Boyce video as well as other sources that help identify the developmental outcomes as well as a suggestion of the processes that help achieve these outcomes. Having discussed this, the section that follows summarizes the key learning points and hence provides a reasoned position as the solution to the research questions. A conclusion is also provided in which suggestions for future research are given. Basic Concept of Differential SensitivityMost of the risks that children face may have adverse, long-term impacts, which can be traced into adulthood. For instance, a child who once suffered from malnourishment in infancy may have poor health and stunted growth in adult life. It is quite easy to recognize/predict this trend. However, psychologically, it is not as easy. Further, although it is possible to detect general patterns in the psychological development of a child, each child has a unique pattern of development; children do not always react similarly to the same events. Even with siblings or identical twins, the reactions to the same event may be different. Two models have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, namely: the diathesis-stress model and the differential sensitivity model. Focusing on the diathesis-stress model, individuals are said to have their own specific stress threshold. Once this threshold is exceeded, the negative effects become evident. These effects/outcomes may be immediate or long-term. The figure below provides an example of the diathesis-stress model.From the figure, it can be seen that when stress levels are relatively low, a vulnerable person has a developmental outcome similar to that of a resilient person. The difference in developmental outcomes at moderate stress levels (the stress-threshold for each individual) is only slight. However, at more severe stress levels, the effect on the developmental outcome is very vivid with the vulnerable person having negative developmental outcomes as compared to the resilient individual. The second model, the differential sensitivity model, proposes that persons differ in how they respond to environmental stresses, based on their profiles of response to different stress levels but not in terms of the individuals’ stress-thresholds, as in the diathesis-stress model. According to this model, “sensitive” individuals respond more negatively to high stress levels compared to “robust” individuals. At the same time, the “sensitive” individuals respond more positively to less stressful, more supportive environments compared to the “robust” persons. An example of the model can be illustrated as shown in the figure below. From the figure, it is clear that at moderate stress levels, the two individuals have approximately equal developmental outcomes. However: a. For the red plotted line – although this individual gains a developmental advantage under low stress levels, under high stress levels, he/she bears the greatest negative impact compared to the resilient individual. b. For the green-plotted line – this individual is less susceptible to the negative effects of high stress but enjoys no benefits under low stress. Evaluating the Models using EvidenceOne of the most relevant studies in the evaluation of the said models is the longitudinal study carried out in Hawaii by Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith. The researchers studied the physical and psychological progress of an estimated 700 babies born in 1955 at Kauai, in a bid to identify the relationship between the children’s resilience and the risk factors they were exposed to including poor economic times, low parental education, poor health and living conditions as well as family instability. Having kept close contact with the families of these children, by early adulthood, it was found that from the 700, 204 had developed serious learning problems and unwanted behaviors at least once until they turned 20. For instance, some were said to be performing poorly in academics, others had mental and physical health problems. However, there was another group of approximately 10% who developed into “competent and autonomous young people, who worked well, played well and expected well.” They were described as “invincible” (Werner & Smith, 1982). The same has been proposed by Jarett (2016) who notes that some children are extra sensitive to parenting styles. These children do very well in a supportive parenting context but perform poorly in a harsh, stressful environment. In his works on “The Orchid Child and the Science of Kindness”, Dr. Thomas Boyce asserts that highly reactive children have high psychopathology under high stress levels (for instance, in times where parents have marital conflicts) as opposed to the low reactivity children (“dandelion” kids) who are largely indifferent to marital conflicts and stress in a broader context. However, the same study also found that the highly reactive children (“orchid” kids) have low psychopathology when they are under low stress levels (less marital conflicts). Therefore, the highly reactive children were found to have either best or worst developmental outcomes depending on the stress levels in their environments. This proves that there is indeed persons who do well irrespective of the stress levels while there are others whose developmental outcomes depend to a great extent on the stress levels in their environments. Boyce (2015) also found this relationship considering the genetic composition of different persons whereby the orchid children were found to have the highest cortisol levels thus become either the least or the most stressed children depending on the socio-economic status in their families (Boyce, 2015). Bergland (2015) also confirms that there are indeed difference in children’s resilience or sensitivity and asserts that genes have a role to play in this disparity. While acknowledging that the report by Boyce (2015) is indeed true, Bergland mentions that some researchers from Duke University have found that the glucocorticoid receptor gene is responsible for the disparity the high vulnerability to stress among orchid children. The same result has been confirmed by Kim-Cohen et al., (2004) who found that children have different levels of susceptibility to stress and resilience based on both their environment (specifically their socioeconomic status) and their genetic composition. In her research study, Cicchetti (2016) also found that although highly reactive children (those with heightened RSA and SNS reactivity) are at risk for transitional/adjustment problems in inter-parental conflicts, they are also most sensitive to the positive effects of having a secure, stable and positive inter-parental relationships. However, for those children without heightened RSA and SNS reactivity, there is no relationship between destructive inter-parental conflicts and child adjustment. This confirms the two differential sensitivity models discussed earlier on. Other Developmental Outcomes and Processes that lead to these OutcomesDrawing from the theme of attachment in middle childhood, Sroufe et al., (2005) followed some individuals from infancy into adulthood. They assessed the attachment capabilities/levels of these persons/children and their psychopathology. From the results, it was clear that children from high social-risk environments who displayed signs of attachment insecurity were more likely to be aggressive, get depressed and other general maladjustment behaviors compared to those children from secure backgrounds. The same result was arrived at by Lewis et al., (1984) who found that insecure children are more likely to develop behavior problems in their preschool and early school years compared to the secure children. The effect is more evident among boys – there was found to be a significant relationship between insecure attachments and behavioral problems among boys aged 6. Further, DeKlyen & Greenberg (2016) also assert that infant-mother attachment is also a predictor of the child’s psychosocial health. Children who had a strong infant-mother attachment relate and attach more easily compared to those who did not have such an attachment. To explain this scenario/phenomenon, Bowlby (1969) notes that when a child feels loved, right from infancy, they learn to be confident not only in their parents’ affection, but also that everyone will like them and hence easily attach themselves to friends and peers. The converse is also true – when a child develops feelings of neglect or being unwanted right from infancy, they often believe that they are not likeable and hence have problems attaching themselves to others. Bowlby (1969) proposes the attachment theory in which he asserts that through the caregiver-child bond, a child develops expectations on the extent to which he/she can acquire and maintain secure relationships. The child also learns the art of trustworthiness in relationships, which in turn plays a critical role in their adult relationships. The second theme of importance for this study is identity. Notably, for a child to have a sense of his/her individual national identity, it is not enough to simply tell the child of the nationality. There is the need to goes beyond this and make them understand that he/she is a member of the said group. Barett (2011) found that children from different nations have an in-group favoritism. That is, many children tend to have greater levels of liking for people with similar national identities as opposed to those from other national groups. According to Barett (2000), a child acquisition of this complex system where they understand their national identity is a process that takes place over a period of many years, not only in childhood but also in adolescence. Barett notes that a child’s development of national identity is driven not only by the social influences but also by the cognitive changes that take place in the way a child is able to conceptualize their social world at different ages. Factoring in the factor of ethnicity, Barrett (2002) compared white British children aged 11-16 years with their age mates of second-generation Indians, Africans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi born in London. From the findings, it was clear that the white British participants attribute significantly higher importance to the British identities than the other four groups of ethnic minority participants. This can be explained in two ways. First, according to Parekh (2000) and Hall (1999), the “Britishness” concept is entrenched within a set of implicit beliefs on the imperial and colonial past which relegates persons from ethnic minority groups to a status of subordinates/minors. This makes it difficult for children from the minority groups to relate/identify with this historical image compared to the white British people. Secondly, it is possible that some children’s responses were a consequence of their religious beliefs – which may have had much influence/relevance/importance for them. For this reason, there may have been some minority children who would identify with being British but they opt not to ascribe their identity as so due to their religious beliefs. Summary and Reasoned PositionThere are several key issues that have come out clearly from the above discussion. First, it is quite clear that children have different responses to environmental influences. There are children who are viewed as the Swedish “Orchid” which has to be nurtured in order to develop well and in case the conditions are not favorable, then the orchid’s development is impaired. For these children, they do extremely well in environments with no stress (that is, high socioeconomic status and no marital conflicts among parents among others) and may reach their highest potentials in such environments. However, these same children do extremely poorly when acting under severe stress (poor socio-economic status and frequent marital conflicts among parents, among others). To explain this, factors such as genetic composition have been used such that these children have been found to possess glucocorticoid receptor gene and have the highest cortisol levels. A sharp contrast to the Orchid child is the “Dandelion” child. Just like the dandelion plant, these children are resilient to stress – stressors in the outside environments do not significantly affect their development. These children will still perform whether or not their parents have marital conflicts, and irrespective of their socioeconomic status. In fact, these children are at the lowest risk of developing stress due to parental adjustment. Genetically, they lack the glucocorticoid receptor gene. More conclusively, these children are highly resilient and lowly reactive. Therefore, as a solution to the question “How and why children differ in their sensitivity and resilience to environmental influence,” it can be seen that for the “how,” children differ by having different reactivity levels (as explained in the Orchid and Dandelion child analogy). For the “why,” the reasons have been found to be the individual characteristics (for example, genes) of the child as described in the discussion. The discussion has also highlighted the effect of identity as well as attachment in the developmental outcomes of children. Children who had secure attachments in early childhood have been found to have positive developmental outcomes since they form relationships more easily that those who had insecure attachment right from infancy – they find it hard to create and maintain relationships or attachments. For the identity theme, it has been found that children have in-group favoritism whereby they tend to have high feelings of their nationality or ethnic group. The development of an individual child’s identity has also been found to be a process that takes place in a span of years. More conclusively, from this discussion, it becomes imperative for parents to identify his/her child’s temperament in order to learn how to make them achieve the best developmental outcomes even under different environment/contexts. Particularly, for parents of the Orchid child, they should ensure that they maintain a favorable environment for their child since even a little stressor will negatively impact their child’s performance, not only in school but also in general life.