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Stress might not be bad for kids

Children who react strongly to stress or have more behaviour and health problems than their peers are likely to do well when raised in a supportive environment, a new study says.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 06, 2010 17:55 IST

Children who react strongly to stress or have more behaviour and health problems than their peers are likely to do well when raised in a supportive environment, a new study says.

"Parents and teachers may find that sensitive children, like orchids, are more challenging to raise and care for," says Jelena Obradovi, assistant professor at the School of Education at Stanford University.

"But they can bloom into individuals of exceptional ability and strength when reared in a supportive, nurturing, and encouraging environment," he adds.

Researchers looked at 338 KG students, as well as their teachers and families, to determine how family adversity and biological reactivity contribute to healthy development.

They found that children who had 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, both bad and good.

This means that highly reactive children were more likely to have developmental problems when growing up in adverse, stressful family settings.

Conversely, such children were also more likely to thrive when they were raised in caring, low-stress families because of their sensitivities 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," explains Obradovi.

Scientists from the Universities of British Columbia, California-San Francisco and the California-Berkeley, conducted the study, says a Stanford University release.