Resilience may have a genetic component, writes Emily Bazelon, who worked with sexually abused children, in the New York Times Magazine. Some people can survive traumatic experiences and go on to productive lives; others are much more vulnerable to depression in response to extreme stress. It helps to have a long allele, she writes.
Study after study has shown that sexually-abused children — especially those who grow up in the sort of low-income, messy surroundings that the girls did — are more likely to develop a raft of emotional and health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts. As adults, they are more likely to be unemployed, homeless, addicted to drugs or alcohol and alone. Now, at ages 26 and 24 respectively, La’Tanya and Tichelle are none of those things.
Both sisters were abused by their welfare mother’s boyfriend. The younger, who has two long (protective) alleles is doing the best; the older, with one long and one short allele, suffers from depression but still manages to hold down a job and live independently.