Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nature vs. Nurture

The debate between nature and nurture has been a common argument in society for the last few decades. There are many proponents of the idea that parenting and the environment are the most important influences of how a child will grow and mature. Without the proper parenting and home environment children will not grow to their full potential. There is this notion that when we are born we need the proper direction and upbringing to mature normally because we are blank slates. This notion contrasts the other side of the argument, nature, which emphasizes the idea that our heredity determines in large part how we grow and mature with an insignificant influence of our home environment. There is, however, a significant influence on childhood development by unique experiences such as neglect and abuse, injury, illness, death in the family, etc. The argument of nature is by far stronger and coherent then the idea that proper nurturing is the most significant factor of proper childhood development.

Many psychologists and sociologists are on the side of the nurture argument. They believe that parenting is the single most important factor in a child's life and without it a child will grow up being helpless, rebellious, dependent, and make bad decisions throughout their life. Proponents of the nurture argument base their argument on statistics that show that children that are adopted and raised by parents that have their own children develop similarly to their unrelated siblings. In addition, they purport that in other findings identical twins that are separated at birth and raised by different middle-class parents will develop differently. They also suggest that spending extra time reading to their children and buying educational toys for their babies will extremely influence the development process. However, in most cases this is not just not true because their heritable traits to a significant extent (40%-50%) govern how children will develop. We cannot forget that our biology and physiology are governed solely by our genes.

In a scientific sense it is easy to understand why the nature argument is far superior to the nurture argument. There are many scientific studies that have determined that identical twins that are raised separately by different parents will develop similarly regardless of how they are raised. Based on their genetics they will both have a larger or smaller affinity for things like cigarettes, alcohol, sports, foods, etc. because their intelligence and habits are in large part governed by their genetic traits which in this case are identical. Under certain circumstances such as a unique experience like illness or injury, the development of one twin may change due to a long-term lifestyle change. In this case, the environment would have an increased effect on development. But, under normal circumstances the former is always the case.

In actuality, we are not much different from our parents. If a parent is aggressive, which is in large part due to our genetics, their children will develop similarly. Our actions and behaviours are not simply influenced by our environment or governed by a long week of stress and worry. They are governed by our genes and by our parents' genes and by their parents' genes, etc. We are not blank slates to be molded into something that is socially acceptable. Rather, we are biological entities that already have strengths and weaknesses that are governed by our genes. If we are to live up to our potential, parents and society need to set expectations that are realistic and that are in line with the needs of individuals, not of a group of individuals. I am not supporting the idea that parenting is obsolete but rather saying that children can learn a lot from their parents because they are genetically similar and a lot of how we develop is governed by our own genetics. However, with the changing times, it is also important to accept new facts and pieces of knowledge which can further expand the minds of our children and that cannot be easily taught by the older generations.

We must break free from the nurture argument and accept that there is such a thing as human nature in the context of heredity and not the environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment