Nature versus nurture (The debate)

In this blog we will briefly discuss what the nature versus nurture debate is. 

We will also explore the history of this debate, it’s impact on the conceptualization of mental health and how either factors impact interact. 

What is the Nature versus Nurture debate?

The nature vs. nurture debate is a long-standing scientific, cultural, and philosophical debate about what contributes to the development of human behaviour, personality, and culture.

Thai debates touch upon whether these aspects of human development are caused by nature or nurture- the relative contribution of genetics and environmental factors.

When it comes to this particular debate that spans across biology, schoology, and philosophy; nature refers to the genetic and hereditary factors that influence traits and dispositions in human development. 

Whereas nurture refers to the environment, the culture, life experiences and all other environmental variables that impact development such as childhood experiences, parenting, and Sociao economic factors, cultural differences etc.

When it comes to psychology, for years, different branches of psychology have taken one versus the other approach. For example, behaviourism- a branch of psychology- leans towards nurture instead of nature.

However, today, the experts of the field have come to recognise that both factors tend to play a critical role in human development through the interaction of both factors throughout life. 

What is the history of the nature versus nurture debate?

The debate between nature versus nurture has been present for centuries, tracing back all the way to Hipporactes- around 400 BCE, 

It was Hippocrates who put forward the idea that human behaviour was a result of biology, specifically the fluids in the body called humours- this one could say, is the first ever argument for nature in the nature vs nurture debate.

However, the initial use of the term “Nature vs. Nurture:” is credited to psychologist Sir Francis Galton in 1869.

In contrast to the arguments of hippocrates, philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke put forward the argument against nature and for nurture when they put forward the idea that people are “blank slates” and the individuality of people was a result of the environment around them.

The nature vs. nurture debate is still ongoing and for centuries it has always been a one sided approach- the thereists in this debate would either be for one or the other approach- either human genes or the influence of early intervention in development and disposition. 

During the 20th century, there has been a rise of the nurture side of the debate with the rise in behaviourism where it was believed that human personalities were learned and that people modelled other people within their social spheres. 

As of recent years there has been a rise in the genetic study of human disposition with the rise of twin studies that reveal that genetics does play a huge role in the development and disposition of human personalities, characteristics, orientation, and also mental illnesses.

While the two sides of the debate have made much strides in research to be able to back their claims,  the experts of the field have come to recognise that both factors tend to play a critical role in human development through the interaction of both factors throughout life. 

How does Nature impact mental health?

When it comes to genetics and how it impacts mental health, we have to understand that years of research has found that genetics does have a role in the development of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar, and major depression.

It is very likely that when a member of the family has a mental illness or a psychological condition, it is also likely that there is an increased risk and probability that other members of the family- down the family trees- will also develop a mental disorder.

However, it has to be clarified that if one identical twin has scheid phonia, there is only a 50% chance that the other twin will also develop this disorder which indicates that while it plays an important part, it is not the only contributing factor.

Another example where the nature argument takes hold is in the case of addiction where researchers believe that family members of an addict are also more likely to become an addict or the addiction to recur in family members because of their genetic disposition of how the substance tastes to them and how it affects them.

How does Nurture impact mental  health?

When it comes to the nurture side of the argument and how it affects an individual mental health and psychological development, present day argument is that while an individual can become genetically predisposed to the disorder or the illness, however the probability of that 50% is bridged by what happened in the environment (nurture). 

When we discuss the same argument related to addiction and alcoholism, arguments for nurture posits that it cannot only be based on nature and that environmental aspects, such as the habits of parents, friends, or a partner, might also be significant factors contributing to the development of an addiction. 

A person might be genetically predisposed but if the environmental factors discourage the development of this habit and later, disorder it is likely that one will not develop an addiction. 

How does Nature and nurture interact?

Experts in today’s field of science and research put forward the view that nature and nurture cannot be separated and rather that they work together- one influencing the other- leading to a joint impact on human development, personalities, culture, and health. 

Researchers have come to this conclusion due to the many examples in nature since that exhibits this interaction. For example, some genes in the body cannot be activated without a certain environment.

For example, an individual might be genetically predisposed to depression, however if the individual is part of a healthy environment that helps him build mental resilience, it is less likely that they will develop the disorder. 

Similarly, some environmental inputs may be undermined by some genes. For example, an individual might be a lifelong smoker however never develop cancer because of their genetics. 

Researchers and experts now believe that certain traits and an individual’s susceptibility to most physical and mental illnesses does not guarantee you will inherit them, but it increases the likelihood that you may develop them.

And this 50% chance that you may or may not develop the illness depends on the environmental factors such as lifestyle, stressors, parenting styles, economic state, access to clean water and food, poverty etc.

For example, even if you are at risk for heart disease or diabetes, the risk of these conditions decreases when you eat a healthy diet and exercise.

Or another example includes exposure to violence increasing the likelihood of anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.

Conclusion

In this blog we will briefly discuss what the nature versus nurture debate is. 

We will also explore the history of this debate, it’s impact on the conceptualization of mental health and how either factors impact interact. 

What is the interaction between nature and nurture called?

The interaction between nature and nurture is called calledInteractionism which refers to the perspective that human behaviour is caused by interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

Experts in today’s field of science and research put forward the view that nature and nurture cannot be separated and rather that they work together- one influencing the other- leading to a joint impact on human development, personalities, culture, and health. 

How does nature and nurture work together in child development?

Experts in today’s field of science and research put forward the view that nature and nurture cannot be separated and rather that they work together- one influencing the other- leading to a joint impact on human development, personalities, culture, and health. 

Let us take an example of a child with a genetic disease who is on the Autism Spectrum. Now, this child might be someone who requires a medium level of support however, with effective parenting, professional support in helping the child learn how to take care of themselves and become more proficient, it is possible that the child can learn how to become somewhat independent- for example, the child might learn how to play on their own without the help of others..

Why is nature and nurture both important?

Experts in today’s field of science and research put forward the view that nature and nurture cannot be separated and rather that they work together- one influencing the other- leading to a joint impact on human development, personalities, culture, and health. 

Researchers have come to this conclusion due to the many examples in nature since that exhibits this interaction. For example, some genes in the body cannot be activated without a certain environment.

For example, an individual might be genetically predisposed to depression, however if the individual is part of a healthy environment that helps him build mental resilience, it is less likely that they will develop the disorder. 

How does nature influence personality?

Research has found that both genetics and environment play a huge role in terms of personality development. When it comes to genetics, there is some evidence that pushes the idea that individuals are pushed to develop some personality disposition due to their genetics. 

This is often seen in the case of people who develop personality disorders where there is a high chance that there has been a family history of personality disorders or other mental disorders in the family. 

What is the role of nature and nurture in the development of intelligence?

When it comes to intelligence, there is a general understanding within the field of research that intelligence is a product of an interaction between heredity (nature) and environment (nurture) factors. 

For example, a child might have high intelligence like their parents or grandparents. However if this intelligence and skill is not fostered by the environment- though rich nutrition, good family parenting and background and quality of schooling- it is possible that their intelligence might not be fostered and developed. 

References:

Nature vs. Nurture Theory: Is It In Our Genes or Our Environment? MedicineNet. Retrieved on 18th Feb 2022. https://www.medicinenet.com/nature_vs_nurture_theory_genes_or_environment/article.htm

Nature vs. Nurture Debate. GoodTherapy. Retrieved on 18th Feb 2022. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/nature-versus-nurture

Cherry.K.The Age Old Debate of Nature vs. Nurture. Verywellmind. Retrieved on 18th Feb 2022.https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-nature-versus-nurture-2795392#toc-examples

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