Why are some poor kids resilient? Parenting makes the difference

There’s fascinating new research showing us something about where ‘grit’ comes from. ‘Why do some children who grow up in poverty do well, while others struggle?’ Alix Spiegel asks in this article. She answers the question with some fascinating new research showing how the quality of an infant’s attachment to her mother makes an enormous difference to sensitive kids, and that this difference grows over time.

Some infants are a lot more sensitive to the environment than others. These sensitive babies are the kids at highest risk of behavioural problems as they get older. Sensitive babies in this research who showed an insecure attachment to their mothers in infancy (i.e., not soothed by the mother’s presence, not happy to see mother after a separation) are the ones who grew into troubled children with the most severe behavioural problems.

Fascinatingly, though, the sensitive babies who showed secure attachments to their mothers in infancy were the ones who grew into the best kids, with the lowest number of problem behaviours.

(The children with low set points [an indicator of less sensitivity to the environment] were not as good as the best or as bad as the worst, no matter their parenting.)

And perhaps most interestingly, Spiegel writes that ‘The behavior of the children with high set points and secure attachments to their mothers compared favorably with the behavior of children whose environments were often much easier.’ The kids who were growing up in high-risk poverty who were sensitive to the environment (‘high set points’) and who experienced secure attachment to their mothers, actually did better than kids growing up with a lot more advantages.


Thank you to Ben Peterson at Newsana–http://www.newsana.com/— for bringing this to my attention!

For those interested in following this farther and deeper, you can go to the source:

Poverty, Problem Behavior, and Promise: Differential Susceptibility Among Infants Reared in Poverty, by Elisabeth Conradt, Jeffrey Measelle, and Jennifer C. Ablow  http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/01/29/0956797612457381

You might also be interested in Dan Keating’s work– http://books.google.com/books/about/Nature_and_Nurture_in_Early_Child_Develo.html?id=0hdB63OT_RYC

or Stephen Suomi’s fascinating studies with cross-fostering monkeys, discussed by Dan Keating in The Nature and Nurture of Early Child Development, and elsewhere–

e.g., http://books.google.com/books?id=R8-HitN5Jp0C&pg=PA254&dq=stephen+suomi&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rCAuUcbnFIba9ASqvYDYDw&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=stephen%20suomi&f=false

Ten Tips for Teachers

In this blog, I offer ten ideas for effective teaching. Although the suggestions are primarily geared for educators, I invite parents to read them so as to become more familiar with what I believe teachers should aspire toward in order to provide children with the best possible learning environments and supports.


By Dr. Joanne Foster

Are you a teacher? Do you focus on intelligence-building? Are you nurturing students’ development to the best of your ability?
Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

1. How can I challenge myself to become a more effective teacher? What specific steps can I take to increase my competence?
2. How can I better prepare, manage, and enhance the learning environment for my students?
3. What do I know about the individual? That is, where is this child at in terms of identity formation? Self-confidence? Resilience? Moral reasoning? Areas of strength and weakness in different domains?
4. What skill sets has this student already mastered? How can I build from there, and what kinds of assistance or scaffolding would be most beneficial to nurture his abilities at this time?
5. How can I motivate this child so that she becomes more excited about and invested in learning?
6. How can I improve upon my connectivity and collaboration with parents? Other teachers? Students?
7. What do I do to model, encourage, and teach students about a growth mindset—including positive habits of mind, a sense of industry, goal-setting, and how to cope when things get tough?
8. How do I encourage creativity in my classroom—and beyond?
9. What sorts of strategies do I use to differentiate programming, instruction, assessment, and other aspects of my teaching so as to address individual learning needs and facilitate a proper educational match for each student?
10. How do children co-create the learning in my classroom? To what extent and in what ways are they actively engaged in developing their own intelligences?

Refection is an excellent impetus for positive change!

February, 2013 – Joanne Foster, EdD