How do we as humans develop our habits and conditions that we choose to live by in everyday society? What makes us behave the way we do and why and why do some people with the same background and upbringing end up in two completely different walks of life? Psychologists have been trying to answer questions just like this for years. The Nature vs Nurture theory or debate rather is an attempt at answering them. Do genes or environment play a bigger role in habits and human behavior.
It has been known for quite some time that certain physical characteristics are determined by biology and inherited by genetics. For example, the color of your eyes, the type of hair you have, and even certain diseases are all directly gotten from the DNA we inherit from our parents. Things such as height and hair loss in men even life expectancy have been linked successfully and correlated between relatives. This made psychologist along with many other scholars wonder if psychological characteristics such as habits and tendencies in behavior as well as personality and mental abilities are passed down through genetics. Are these things also preprogrammed in our DNA before we are even conceived?
On this debate in particular there are two types of people who argue each point with valid reasons to support said stance. Those who believe that Nature is directly responsible for how we grow and develop are called nativists. Others who believe that the environment and social climate that we are brought up in plays the biggest part in how we develop are called environmentalists. In regard to the debate about which side is right or wrong it is often split down the middle. Due to each side having too much information to prove their point but not enough to discredit the other sides beliefs either.
Nativists basic stance for this argument is that all characteristics of the human species are a product of evolution and that the differences between people around the world are due to each individual’s unique genetic make-up. Nativists argue that even maturation is brought about through different genetic factors that we are pre-disposed to. The nature side of the debate is directly correlated to the science of one’s genetic makeup and how it can affect a person’s behaviors as well as habits. For instance, with cases of alcohol and drug abuse you are often asked while on the path to recovery if anyone else in your family has had an issue with substance abuse.
The children of addicts are eight times more likely to develop an addiction therefore when being prescribed any kind of drug or controlled substance you are asked to submit a family history. In that history includes what genetic conditions and diseases did your relatives have as well as if they ever struggled from any kind of substance abuse problem. This is due to the medical field acknowledging that genetics plays a role in addiction. You can be pre-disposed to having a problem with addiction without you ever having done anything in that realm before. This is due to your genetic make-up that is a result of your family and their genetic makeup. Something that is completely out of regular human control and is just nature passing on traits as it always has since the beginning of time.
Mental conditions are also passed down through the gene pool and can directly influence a person’s behavior and how they see and view the world. Children that are born with ADD or bipolar disorder have no control over them developing those conditions. It is simply nature passing the trait along though the family blood line. This can be both a positive and a negative whereas people who are growing up with these conditions if left untreated can often live under extreme stress and duress which can lead to violent and addictive behavior. But it all originated from a problem that the individual didn’t have much choice over just like we cannot choose the color of our skin at birth.
Environmentalists believe that at birth the human mind is a blank slate and that as time passes it is filled with behaviors and tendencies that are witnessed and directly caused because of experience. From this perspective all characteristics of human life both behavioral and Psychological are the results of learning. It’s how you are brought up and nurtured that forms these habits and behaviors and maturation is only applied to genetics. For example, under this way of thinking an infant that forms an attachment is only responding to the love and attention it has received. That language is learned by trying to imitate the speech of others and how we develop cognitively depends on the degree of stimulation we receive from our environment and the society we are brought up in.
For example, Children who grew up in an abusive household and are products of domestic violence relationships are more likely to develop behavioral problems. Children may learn and be taught to believe through the experiences that violence is an acceptable behavior while in an intimate relationship. This outs them at risk and increases the chances of them becoming the abused or even the abuser. Children exposed to violence in their home often results in them having conflicted feelings toward their parents. This leads to distrust and anxiety being taught to them surrounding romantic relationships and can shape how they view love.
To continue with the blank slate theory human development depends on social interaction, as humans we are built to interact as well as learn and adapt according to what is widely accepted by our peers and society as a whole. With the nurture theory it is believed that society and culture have a direct impact on the psychological behaviors and habits we form as children and carry into adulthood. We are taught as children what is acceptable and what isn’t and the nurture theory states that without those teachings and guidance we would not develop psychologically and have such diverse personalities from one another. The nurture theory states that Experience builds the person as opposed to already being something and coming into it as you mature.
In today’s scientific field I believe that neither of these sides are taken to such extremes as they were in the past. I believe naturalists and environmentalists have learned to develop an agreeance to disagree on this subject. Both understanding the points that the other is making and accepting the facts that are presented. Personally, I believe they both play a role in how we develop our habits and function in society. Whereas it is true if my parents were alcoholics, I may have the gene and be pre-disposed to alcoholism. But witnessing my parents drink could also pre-dispose me to be an alcoholic due to me seeing that it is an acceptable behavior at a very young age.
Both Nature and Nurture are important to our evolution as human beings and being able to experience both of these things together in life is what separates us from the animals. Both sides of the debate prove their point in a very convincing way however I believe there shouldn’t be a debate at all but an understanding that without one the other would not be possible. Nature controls what we may do and what we may be capable of before we are born but Nurture shows us what we can do with what nature has given us through what we are taught in society.