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September 26, 2013

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Nature vs. Nurture

by Angel Pumila

NATURE VS NURTURE

            Since the 17th century, when John Locke proclaimed that the mind of a child is a blank slate, the debate about whether nature or nurture has the strongest influence on development has raged. Some scientists argued adamantly that genetics were the sole source of what makes us who we are. Others insisted that influences from the environment in which we are raised contribute to traits. Today, most psychologists now look for ways to account for both influences in their practices.

Parents transmit genes to their children that we can see such as eye color, height, and facial characteristics. What we don’t see are the individual differences in personality that are a part of behavior genetics (Boyd & Bee, 2009). Behavior genetics are studied particularly in identical and fraternal twins due to the similarities in their genes. It is found that identical twins share a higher percentage of personality traits throughout their lifetime. This proves that genetics does have an impact and supports that argument that nature can influence development.

Although nature is important, nurture or the outside environment that people are subjected to throughout their lifetime impacts behavior as well. The way that children are raised and the situations that people encounter can determine how they will grow and develop. Different people can react to situations in different ways based upon their past experiences. These experiences also affect the way in which the outside world is interpreted.

A good example of environmental variances within a cultural context can be found by taking a look into multi-cultural adopted families. Due to the lack of available children to adopt in the United States, many families look to other countries to complete their family (Berk, 2012, p66). These children grow up speaking a different language, enjoy different activities, and express different personalities than their biological relatives from their origin because of how and where they are raised.

Psychologists have moved away from the either/or debate of nature versus nurture. Now they are considering both as influences in development (Berk, 2012). To explain why it is that identical twins can be a complete opposite, scientists now contribute the difference to the work of an interesting new concept known as epigenetics. “Epigenetics works to turn genes on and off in a way to change traits” (Miller, 2012). This explains why one twin can be a successful businessman, while the other may be an alcoholic. While their genetic makeup is the same and their environment shared, the manner in which their traits are expressed can differ.

I agree that development is not as simple as nature or nurture, but a complex combination of both. The expressed traits within biologically related family members, identical twins, and adopted families all provide plenty evidence that there are multiple factors blended together to create the individual traits in each of us.

 

References

Berk, L. (2012). Infants, children, and adolescents. Boston, MA: Pearson Educational, Inc.

Boyd, D., & Bee, H. (2009). Lifespan Development (5th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Miller, P. (2012). Twins data reshaping nature versus nurture. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2012/01/02/144583977/twins-data-reshaping-nature-versus-nurture-debate.

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