Is nature or nurture more influential in a child’s development?
In the past seventy years, we have discovered what ‘genes’ are, what they do and how we are affected by them. We have now come to a fairly good understanding that its effects even extend downwards into children’s development and achievement ability in many fields (from here on termed as the ‘effect of nature’). However, other researchers, psychologists and sociologists have by and large found that a child’s development could also be affected by external factors (from here on termed as ‘nurture’). This has begged serious questions as to whether nature or nurture plays the bigger role.
Nature influences a child’s aptitude for various subjects and determines, to some extent, his or her inclinations.
This is seen manifested (to show something clearly, through signs or actions) in a child’s own personality and physical build, which are mostly the result of genetic expressions, and these intrinsic (being an extremely important and basic characteristic of a person or thing) traits are vital factors in influencing the child’s life trajectory.
There are some genes that play major roles in circumscribing (to limit something) the child’s personality, mannerisms and intelligence. While the brain and the body may share similar basic structures amongst all human beings, genes determine the variations in body and neural make-up by causing differences in the substructures that make up our body and brain.
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This indubitably shows that what we have inherited from our forebears (a relative who lived in the past) influences our physical and mental strengths and limitations, and this would then feed into our children’s future academic, educational, physical and career trajectories.
It would not be a stretch to say that nature plays a part in influencing our children’s development.
Nature influences the upbringing of the child by influencing the parents and their parenting styles too.
Parents are human beings too, and they possess varied personalities. Having established earlier that personality is circumscribed (limited) by genes inherited, these would then feed into their mannerisms and parenting styles too.
The “Science News” report, published last month, offers a striking new demonstration of this complexity. Genes may help determine how long children stay in school, the researchers found, but some of those genes operate at a distance – by influencing parents. The authors go on to coin a phrase for this effect: “genetic nurture”. To scientists accustomed to tracing the links between the genes you carry and the traits they govern, it is a head-spinning idea.
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This has clearly shown that nature, and genes, need not directly influence one’s behaviour, and has also shown the widespread influence that nature has on our children, pervading into what would otherwise be considered an environmental factor.
Thus, it is right to postulate (to suggest a theory, idea, etc. as a basic principle from which a further idea is formed or developed) the argument that we cannot discount the role of genetics and nature in influencing a child’s behaviour, upbringing and development.
Conversely, the child is influenced by the economic circumstances in which he or she lives, and this is particularly salient (The salient facts about something or qualities of something are the most important things about them) in countries with high inequality.
In such countries, rich parents pass their advantages on to children, leaving the poor ones in the lurch and in a position of serious disadvantage. This is the economic reality that many well-developed countries face.
Well-off parents in countries like Singapore and the United States are able to pass their economic and network advantages (‘silver spoons’) to their children. This can be in the form of money, or increased work experience, outright entrance to or increased coaching and enrichment lessons to join elite and prestigious colleges and degree programmes to land prestigious and highly sought-after, in-demand careers.
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These quintessential cases clearly show how the scales and balances of success in life are tipped in favour of parents and children with economic means, and nature cannot completely account for that.
Nurture, and particularly the economic factors, are thus key factors influencing the development of a child.
The child is influenced by social and environmental circumstances i.e. the company in which he mixes, and his surroundings.
If the child establishes strong and constructive friendships, this would likely set him up for greater support, better success in life and conversely, if he falls into a bad company, that would stunt incontrovertibly (impossible to doubt because of being obviously true) his emotional growth and development.
Recent research in the United States shows the importance of friendship and its impact on mental and physical health. Preschool friendships are helpful in developing social and emotional skills, heightening a sense of belonging and decreasing stress. People who feel lonely or socially isolated tend to be more depressed, have more health issues and may have a shorter lifespan.
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This shows how a child’s surroundings, way of life, friendships and emotional connections are overarching (most important, because of including or affecting all other areas) factors determining the development of children.
Hence, nurture is also a very dominant factor in determining a child’s development.
In the end, it is clear that nature and nurture play many roles in influencing children’s development. Given that interlinkages have been found between both nature and nurture, there are no easy answers to this question, but my belief is that nature has a slight upper hand, as it cannot be changed while external factors (‘nurture’) can be easily modified.
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