Dandelion Child

A Swedish idiomatic expression, maskrosbarn (dandelion child), refers to the capacity of some children, not unlike those with low reactive phenotypes, to survive and even thrive in whatever circumstances they encounter, in much the same way that dandelions seem to prosper irrespective of soil, sun, drought, or rain. Observations of such children have generated, for example, an extensive developmental literature on the phenomenon of resilience, the capacity for positive adaptation despite experiences of significant adversity. A contrasting Swedish neologism, orkidebarn (orchid child), might better describe the context-sensitive individual, whose survival and flourishing is intimately tied, like that of the orchid, to the nurturant or neglectful character of the ambient environment. In conditions of neglect, the orchid promptly declines, while in conditions of support and nurture, it is a flower of unusual delicacy and beauty.

W. Thomas Boyce & Bruce J. Ellis

via “The Science of Success