Sometimes, amid the rot and rubble of a garbage heap, a flower grows. The same thing can happen with children, says child psychologist David Elkind. "By all that is sacred in clinical psychiatry and psychology, some children should be ill. But they are not."

Elkind calls these children "the invulnerables." Had they been born to a different family, "perhaps they would have been prodigies. But born into stressful home situations, some of their strengths and talents seem to be directed to the most important task--survival."

In the last decade, says Elkind, there has been increasing interest in young people who respond positively to stress. Researchers have identified these five qualities shared by the "invulnerables":

1. Social competence--Seem at ease with peers and adults and put others at ease with them.

2. Impression management--Able to present themselves as appealing and charming. Seem to like adults, but not in a dependent way. Suggest that they have much to learn and are willing to do so.

3. Self-confidence--See problems as a challenge, have a sense of competence and abililty to master stressful situations.

4. Independence--Think for themselves, not dissuaded by persons in authority or power. Often find a place for privacy and a chance to create an environment suitable to needs and interests.

5. Achievement--Are producers, get good grades, have hobbies, write poetry, sculpt, paint, do carpentry, etc. Develop intense interests at an early age.