Nature versus nurture Essay

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This essay will discuss the long and tedious psychology debate of nature versus nurture and how they interact to influence development and shape us as individuals. The essay will define nature and nurture separately and it examine how they influence our development and behaviour by looking at research which was carried out on “Virtual Twins” and the genetic influences on peoples well being and health for example neonatal lung disease. It will argue how nature and nurture co inside with one and other through genotype-environment correlation. Also throughout the essay references will be made to Urie Bronfenbrenner and Charles Darwin, whose theories relate greatly to development and nature versus nurture. The essay will also examine how the nature versus nurture debate can assist a social care practitioner in their daily work. Nature versus Nurture

Before we examine how nature and nurture affect our development we must first be able to define what development is. According to Santrock development can be classified as “the pattern of change in human capabilities that begins at conception and continues throughout the lifespan” (Santrock, 2003, p. 119). These patterns are shaped through several different processes, biological process, cognitive process and socioemotional processes (Santrock, 2003). Physical refers to growth in a person’s biological nature and genes which are inherited from our parents. Cognitive describes the alterations in a person’s thoughts, intelligence and language. Finally socioemotional refers to changes in a person’s relationships with other individuals and changes in emotions due to this interaction (Santrock, 2003). Here we can already see that both nature and nurture play a vital role in our development as a person.

To fully understand the nature nurture debate we must first separate them and be able to describe what each aspect entails. Nature refers to the genes we inherit from our parents and how they play an important role in developing human behaviour. Whereas, nature refers to the environment around us and the people who influence our behaviour. Here we say that the environment includes all of the surrounding physical and social conditions (Santrock, 2003). Nature and nurture is studied using many different types of research methods such as descriptive, correlation and experimental research. Each method used depends on the type of information a researcher wishes to find out about either nature or nurture or both. Descriptive research is most suited to collecting data for nature or nurture, as descriptive research uses observations, surveys, interviews and case studies. A cross sectional approach could be used with surveys to collect data over a wide age group. However this type of study does not allow for a relation to be made between early and late behaviour. However correlation research is also widely used as it allows a link to be made. For example, it could be used to find the IQ similarities between adopted children and either their biological or adopted parents. Experimental behaviour is difficult to use for collecting data on nature and nurture, however it could be used to examine how the environment influences an individual’s behaviour.

Collecting data separately on nature and nurture is very difficult to do as they are both so closely linked. This brings us to the main argument of the nature nurture debate is what percentage of human development is due to nature and what percent is due to nurture. To do this we must look at different research on both nature and nurture separately As described earlier nature is classified by our inherited genetics, for example we get our hair and eye colour from the genes our parents have given us; also we inherit psychological characteristics such as temperament and emotional stability. This type of study of genetics is known as psychogenetics or behaviour genetics (Atkinson, Atkinson, & Hilgard, 1983). Certain diseases can also be inherited from our parents. One disease in particular which researchers Mikko Hallman and Ritva, from the Haataja Department of Pediatrics and Biocenter of the University of Oulu in Finland, studied is neonatal lung disease. According to the researchers neonatal lung disease develops when specific forms of a DNA sequence of a particular genes {SP-A and SP-B genes} connect interactively with susceptibility to respiratory distress syndrome. As a result rare mutations causing an absence of a certain protein result in progressive respiratory failure. This in turn affects an individual’s lifestyle choice and in turn affects how they develop as a person. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary psychology is a very good example of how individuals change genetically in order to survive. Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution provided an account of the way living
organisms change and develop over time through the process of natural selection (Malim & Birch, 1998). According to Santrock “the evolutionary psychology approach focuses in the conditions that allow individuals to survive or fail” (Santrock, 2003, p. 13). David Buss also argues that evolution shapes our physical features, such as body shapes, it also affects behavioural aspects such as aggression and fears (Santrock, 2003). This shows that nature plays a vital role in how an individual develops both physically and mentally. Nurture on the other hand is how our environment influences our development and behaviour. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory provides a systematic framework on how an individual’s environment influences their behaviour. According to Share “child development is placed within a multi-layered socio-cultural context, with development seen as the culmination of many direct and indirect influences mediated through various ‘layers’ or systematic layers in a child’s ecology” (Share, 2009, p. 98). Also Bronfenbrenner argues that an individual is also influenced by the chronosystem, which is the timeframe in which they live. In order to explain his theory Bronfenbrenner devised the ecological model which showed the different environmental structures and systems that influences an individual’s development and behaviour. The macrosystem refers to the general culture, social structure, economic condition and cultural values (Share, 2009). The exosystem consists of the local contextual factors that influence a child via others, for example the local neighbourhood, schools and the media (Share, 2009). Finally there is the microsystem which contains the immediate relationships and individual had, for example a parent to child or a child to a friend (Share, 2009). Bronfenbrenner argues that an individual learns how to behave from these layers of different environments. Research into nurture also helps to prove Bronfenbrenner’s theory and shows that environment influences an individual’s development and particularly in younger individuals. Recently researchers Nancy L. Segala and Scott L. Hershbergerb from the Department of Psychology and Twin Studies Centre in California State University, have created the idea of virtual twins to help prove the this point even further. They define Virtual twins (VTs) as being individuals of the same age, who are unrelated siblings reared together from early infancy and as a result demonstrate ‘twin ship’, but without being genetically related. This strengthens the idea that nurture as an effect on
shaping as an individual, it shows that as the children we are influenced be experiences that go on in our environment. The research was carried out on ninety sets of twins of an average age of eight years old. All individuals in VT pairs were reared together before one year of age with a maximum difference of 9 months. Project rules also required that children attending school be in the same grade, although they could attend different schools or classes. These rules were developed for the purpose of replicating the twin situation. Each family received materials such as informed consent, family background questionnaire and a child behaviour checklist to complete at home and return by mail. Members of most pairs (110/113, 97%) were IQ tested by different local examiners, and were tested on the same day to avoid discussion of items between partners. After the research was carried out the researchers concluded “that based on the correlations implied by the sibling interaction models, siblings may contribute to genotype–environment correlation’s influence on individual differences in intelligence.” It was also stated that “the positive significant sibling interaction effects found for IQ, Verbal IQ, and Performance IQ suggest that one’s siblings may be a source of family environmental influence.” From here we can conclude that the research was carried out correctly and the rules the researches had created before the research was carried out help to get the best possible result from the data collected. From this research we can see that an individual’s environment can define who an individual can develop to be. Children who are not genetically related can still achieve similar IQ levels. This proves that our environment can shape us. After examining nature and nurture separately it’s easy to see how psychologists find it hard to determine which one of them influences an individual’s development most. Genotype-environment is a good example of how nature and nurture work together to help develop and shape individuals. For example parents create a home environment that is influenced by their own heritable characteristics. Biological parents also pass on genetic material to their children. The children’s genotype also influences their behavioural and cognitive outcomes; the result can be a false relationship between environment and outcome. An example of this is when a child has an unusual talent for athletics and other sports. Certain psychologists believe that talent is due to a mixture of genes inherited from parents who have a similar talent
(Vasta, Miller, ; Ellis, 2004). However other psychologists believe that environmental factors, like opportunities in a child’s life that help them to acquire and practice the necessary skills to improve their talent (Vasta, Miller, ; Ellis, 2004). Also aggressive behaviour is influenced by both nature and nurture. Children learn aggressive behaviour from their environment like watching violent television programs; however they also inherit characteristics that make it difficult for a child to regulate their emotions (Vasta, Miller, ; Ellis, 2004). Nature and nurture are so tightly combined that it’s difficult to say which one influences personal development. In conclusion it is evident that both the combination of nature and nurture shape an individual. A knowledge of both nature and nurture is important when working as a social care practitioner. Being able to understand where a client has come from, their family environment and if their parents have a record for aggression or criminal behaviour gives the social care practitioner a basis for helping to understand an clients behaviour. For example, if a social care worker has a client who is an aggressive youth and who is in trouble with the law, It would be helpful to know their behaviour could be because they have learnt it in their environment or get it from their parents who are also aggressive and are associated with criminal behaviour, as aggression and criminal behaviour can be passed on through genes. Conclusion

In conclusion it can be said that nurture and nature is a debate that is endless. As from readings and research it is difficult to separate nature and nurture as both play a vital role in developing an individual’s behaviour.

Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., ; Hilgard, E. R. (1983). Introduction to Psycology. London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Hallman Mikko ; Haataja Ritva, (2002). Genetic influences and neonatal lung disease. [online] avalible Science Direct. Malim, T., ; Birch, A. (1998). Introductory Psychology. London : Macmillan Press Ltd. Santrock, J. W. (2003). Psychology 7. New York: McGraw-Hill. Share, K. L. (2009). Applied Social Care. Dublin: Gill ; Macmillan. Segala Nancy L, and Hershbergerb Scott L. (2005). Virtual twins and intelligence: Updated and new analyses of within-family environmental
influences. [online] avalible Science Direct . Vasta, R., Miller, S. A., ; Ellis, S. (2004). Child Psychology. Hoboken: John Wiley ; Sons.

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