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Nature vs. Nurture

June 15th, 2020


“For good nurture and education implant good constitutions.” - Plato


The Terms

In terms of human development and behavior, there is always a constant debate on what exactly shapes the characteristics of an individual – is it their genetics or their surrounding environment?

Some people believe it is nature over nurture, and vice versa, and some people believe that it is a combination of both that determine our personalities. For example, a behavioral psychologist will lean more towards nurture and how a person’s surroundings heavily influence them. On the other hand, an evolutionary or a biological psychologist will argue that nature plays a larger since genetic factors are predetermined.


This side of the debate refers to genetic traits that have been passed down through their parents.


Describes the environmental variables that contribute to who we are. This can include childhood experiences/trauma, how we were raised, society, relationships, culture, etc.

The History of the Debate

This debate has been going on for hundreds of years across many cultures. Philosopher, John Locke, stated that we are born with a “blank slate” and our experiences develop our traits.

In 1874, the term “Nature-Nurture” came from Sir Francis Galton. Sir Francis Galton believed hereditary factors alone influenced our characteristics. Many people also believed that our behaviors are only predetermined biologically.

After the ideas of Sigmund Freud came about, people realized that a person’s personal experiences heavily influence development and behavior.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, many studies (Twin Studies) emerged with evidence supporting both nature and nurture equally. During this time, nature and nurture were looked at as independent from on another. Nowadays, nature and nurture are looked at as codependent

The Twin Studies

Twins are easy guinea pigs to experiment on. Over the past century, many sets of twins have been observed to help us understand more about the way humans develop and build character.

For example….

A famous study, now turned documentary, “Three Identical Strangers”, describes three triplets who were separated at birth and later reunited in their adult lives. Although the three brothers were oddly similar, Eddy, Bobby, and David were placed into different families which resulted in some different behaviors as well.

Biologically speaking, the boys had a similar look, spoke alike, and even shared related interests specifically they all smoked the same cigarettes. Their birth mother was known to be a depressed alcoholic. At some point throughout each of their lives, all three of them experienced depression, or some other form of mental illness.

Environmentally speaking, the boys grew up with different authoritative figures, economic standards, and some had siblings who belonged to their adopted family. Eddy had a terrible relationship with his adopted father and later committed suicide. David had a father who was a doctor and in return he had a more reserved personality. Bobby’s father was a jolly man and when all of the triplets reunited they became closest with his father.

In conclusion, a person’s genetic makeup in combination with their surrounding environment play a role in a person’s overall characteristics

A model of a DNA helix in nature

What Does This Information Provide?

We were able to develop better treatment plans for mentally ill patients. It was mostly common for patients to take medications as the only treatment. Nowadays, people not only take medications, but they also change a few aspects of their environments.

For example, people begin eating healthier, working out, reading a book, sleeping more at night, meditating, etc. In conclusion, medication along with adjusting your physical environment will provide an individual the highest success rate in overcoming their mental health issues.

Advice for New Parents: How to Parent Genes

Parenting style can heavily influence the intensity of a child’s behavior. There are four common types of parenting styles: uninvolved, permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian.

Uninvolved: this parent does not ask about homework completion, does not seem to care where the child is or who they are with, and does not spend time with child.

Permissive: a permissive parent will provide rules without reinforcement, hardly disciplines their child, and promotes independence.

Authoritative: this parent will heavily provide rules and reinforcement while taking child’s feelings into consideration, they explain why they create certain rules, and they strongly put a lot of effort into maintaining a positive relationship with child.

Authoritarian: this parent acts as a dictator and does not allow for any funny business, this parent makes rules with no explanation or thought about how their child will feel.

When it comes to the child’s best interest, the authoritative parent will most likely influence their child in the most positive manner. Of course, there are always exceptions since people learn in different ways, but the parent who is understanding and compassionate as well as provides rules and reinforcement seems to be the most successful.

Present-Day Views on the Nature and Nurture Debate

In terms of development of character, many researchers can not say for sure that nature is more prominent than nurture, and vice versa. It is safe to say that nature and nurture are interlaced with each other. In other words, depending on the type of environment a person is surrounded by will alter the types of genes being activated and at which strength. Instead of pinning them against each other, it is safest to say nature is nurture and nurture is nature. They work hand in hand to create personality and character in an individual.

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