Nature Vs. Nurture
Is human development primarily the result of nature (biological forces) or nurture (environmental forces)? These are two theoretical controversies that this paper seeks to compare and contrast.
These are two of the most heated theories because of their opposing viewpoints: First, “Heredity and not environment is the chief maker of man…Nearly all of the misery and nearly all of the happiness in the world are due not to environment…The differences among men are due to differences in germ cells with which they were born (Wiggam, 1923, p. 42). The second one states, “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select–doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, regardless of his talents.
Thus, this concept maintains that there is no such thing as an inheritance of capacity, talent, temperament, mental constitution and behavioral characteristics (Watson, 1925, p. 82).
Explanation of the interaction of heredity and environment is not a simple matter. Hereditary factors operate from the moment of conception in determining the features of human growth and development. Our current understanding of human genetics makes it fairly clear that many human physical traits are inherited. We know that genetic factors are involved in the development of the human body from the time of conception. However, we do not fully understand the scientific mechanisms of the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in controlling human growth and development. The relationship of this nature versus nurture interaction to human behavior is indeed a much-debated issue.
Friends or relatives are frequently quick to comment that an infant has a temper “like his father” or is easygoing “like his mother,” suggesting that such differences are inherited. Does this mean that infant temperament is generically determined? Not necessarily, since the environment plays an important role in the expression of temperament.
Researchers say that temperament is best viewed as a natural bias toward a given behavioral direction (difficult, easygoing, introverted and extroverted). The expression of this bias depends on one’s environment or experience: the child with a temperamental “bias” for a high activity level may in fact be easygoing and mild-mannered in a relaxed family environment. The bias for high activity levels may in fact be easygoing and mild mannered in a relaxed family environment. The bias for high activity levels may appear only in a stressful or competitive situation (Wiggam, 1923).
The environments or “contexts” of life play a major role in the development of human beings throughout the lifespan. Even the most ardent genetically oriented human beings acknowledge that the environment contributes to human development. Thus Nurture is important in this respect. However, it is not enough simply to state that environment is important in the analysis of a person’s character. This is where the importance of nature comes in.
In practical life, the one that plays a more dominant role for example, in crime control policy, is the one that centers more on the role of the biological setup of the person and the family with whom he grows up with. The majority of children grow up in a family context that usually includes a father and/or a mother and, in many instances, brothers and sisters. The family has been shown to have an impact on important processes, including the development of self-concept, sex roles, language, intellectual abilities and interpersonal skills (Bronfenbrenner, 1986).
In literature, this is demonstrated in the lives of Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and their father Atticus. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story from the viewpoint of a child and this makes it all the more poignant. The premise that man is essentially kind and good attests to the nature principle here and lends credence to the idea that personality and character is inborn, though this story goes one step higher and states that this innate character of man is good and noble and true.
Although developmental theories have emerged to describe the growth and maturation of the individual, a parallel trend has been to describe the changing pattern of the family life cycle as a series of developmental stages (Watson, 1913). Family developmentalists view the family, like the individual, as having certain prime functions at certain points in the life cycle. Infant temperament and personality depend for their expression on the joint contributions of heredity, environment (parenting strategies) and individual behavior (through the active selection of environments, particularly as the child grows older).
All these are the end products of a long and involved interplay between biological predisposition and environmental forces. Sometimes, it is best to think less about nature versus nurture and more about how these two sets of influences combine or interact to produce a developmental change.