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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Why it May be Good If Your Kid has ADHD or Bipolar Genes

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 4th 2009

In a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly, David Dobbs outlines a new genetic theory that says having the high-risk gene doesn't mean they are destined to potentiate the qualities of that gene. How you parent and the environment that the child grows up in may be more significant than we think, it may actually be the factor that turns tragedy into triumph.

This emerging "Orchid Hypothesis" says that under the right conditions, children with these genes may actually be poised for greater resiliency and achievement.

The name comes from a comparison with dandelions and orchids. Dandelions may be more like most kids where they are hardy and can grow well under a variety of conditions. However, while an orchid may be more sensitive, when grown under the right conditions, it is spectacular.

This reminds me a little bit of Sharon Begley's report on The Upside of Depression. She explores studies that find reasons why depression has lasted in evolution for so long, there may be an upside. In other words, in other words, as someone once said, "in the face of adversity, lies equal or greater opportunity."

If you're a parent and now saying, "Great, it is my fault if my kids turn out a mess." I would point you to read about Donald Winnicott's Good Enough Mother.

At the end of the day we all come into this world with our own strengths and imperfections. We all really do the best we can and so let this "orchid theory" (which it is really only a theory), be an opportunity to look into how you might shape your child's environment, but with the understanding that you can only still do the best you can and life does the rest.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  



Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Keep it up Renee - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Dec 6th 2009

Keep up the great work Renee! It sounds like your children have some wonderful parents...

So, how I raise my kids will make a difference. - Renee - Dec 5th 2009

Hi Dr. Goldstein,

Interesting article!  I've dealt with ADHD all my life, though it wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult.  I'm sure the information in your article is too late to help me, but it sounds like I could work with my kids to gain strength from their ADHD genes (gene?)  So far they don't show signs of ADHD, but then again my husand and I are raising them with the Attachment Parenting philosophy of loving discipline, using no spanking, and no harsh punishment.  If they do something we wish they wouldn't, we respond effectively, but not punitively.  I'm just venturing a guess, but maybe by keeping these learning moments positive we've been able to keep the negative aspects of the gene coming through.  (Or maybe I'm just crazy here, I'm not sure.) 

I'm glad I found this site.  I'm going to bookmark it and look through some more.   Thanks!

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