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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Lelcesona

Nature vs. Nurture

What truly makes us who we are? Is it in our biological DNA or the experiences we’ve lived through? You might have never thought to consider the things that factor into creating your personality but nature vs. nurture has been a century long argument between what genetics and outside factors have shaped you. There are many factors that play into it, starting with your ancestry, DNA, and all the way down to your upbringing in different environments. 

Nature v. Nurture, a psychological debate that has gone on unanswered for many years discusses numerous topics about one’s creation of the personality. The question that is inferred when we say “versus” is whether or not someone is created or becomes the person they are due to their environment or DNA. Are you mean because you’re insecure or because your parents gave you that trait? Can you change whether or not you allow your family to determine who you grow up to be? If you are abused, do you truly become the abuser? The question can come in many forms and have many different subcategories. 

Your nature is a subject of science and is made up of your biological traits. The idea of your nature is more of a for sure, information built side of the argument, based on facts, surveys, and data. It refers to the genetic makeup of ourselves. When you speak of your nature you are really speaking of how you were biologically created and whether or not you are able to create the person you are simply because you cannot help it and cannot perform any other action nor have the choice. 

When you refer to your nurture, it comes in a wide variety of categories and options. Your nurture could come from the town you grew up in, the school you attended, the friends you made, or how your family interacted. Nurture could depend on the parenting style your parents decided to raise you with or how your friends impacted every decision you make. 

You can decide on an option or simply acknowledge that the true ‘answer’ is that there really is none. You are not required to choose one explanation for yourself and stick to it for the rest of your life. Both your nature and nurture are able to impact each other and work together to create who you become.

Addiction is a large subcategory when it comes to nature v nurture. When you go to the doctor, they ask you whether or not mental illnesses or alcoholism and drug abuse run in the family. Most people can say no and get along with their lives, but what about the rest? This case is an example of how nature and nurture can actually work together negatively to create a factor in your personality. 

In health class, while researching the causes of chlamydia, I learned that if your mother is pregnant and gives birth to you while having chlamydia, she can give you an ear infection, pneumonia, or chlamydia. The same with drug addicted mothers giving birth. As previously stated, what your mother eats and drinks is yours even if it’s a drug. After a drug addicted baby is born it’ll start to go through all the stages of withdrawal for up to a week. Which do you think affected the baby in that instance? Was it created addicted or did it’s mother make it addicted? During the time that has been spent deciding between the two options, there have also been, some may say, ‘solutions’ to adjusting either your nature or nurture.

The world has evolved in many ways over the years, meaning you have the possibility to change or choose how you let your nurture and nature affect you. Psychotherapies have advanced and are able to “alter some physical properties of the brain.” meaning that even if you act based on nurture, you can change it. Changing your genetics is a bit more of a struggle because you mainly see the specific change of DNA before forming a person, such as punnett squares. Punnett squares are a resource used in genetic studies to pick and choose specific physical traits using dominant and recessive traits. 

A nativist perspective is the fact that you could very well possibly be the person you are due to your DNA. When in the womb, you depend completely on your mother. What she drinks and eats is yours, what she breathes is your air, etc. Yet at the same time she’s also helping you create yourself biologically. The unique DNA that creates itself in the womb, inside of you, “are created to help us survive and are passed down generation after generation adding new ones and blocking out old ones.” (Carbajal)  She and your father create your genetics as an extension of themselves and the many others before them.

The Mother Wound is a theory of whether or not mothers can carry generational trauma has become very popular. The theory is that while your mother is pregnant, her child has already developed her eggs in the womb and therefore carries them all her life. In this theory a daughter spends most of her childhood acting as a sponge to her mother’s trauma. If this was the case, whoever she became or however she acted towards certain situations would be the nature given to her since being in her mother’s womb. It wouldn’t be out of genetics, it would be due to the reproductive system. 

         When we look a bit further into our nurture, nurture could contain a lot of factors. Nurture is who we live with, where we grow up, what parenting styles we were raised with, and so much more. 

         Looking at the effects of our environment when it comes to growing up, there are major advantages and disadvantages. Children in poorer environments are “denied the same life chances as more privileged members of society” (Mcleod) You can see this example very frequently in real life or in even popular shows and movies. People born into wealthy families or communities are constantly being automatically handed opportunities such as jobs, in colleges, etc. People born in poorer environments and communities have always had to work for what they want in life, literally and scholastically.

          It’s a lot more useful when you have resources and connections to all the right people in life. Some people grow up with the money to pay a tutor when they’re failing a class or even take their SATs for them. You can have money to pay for college all at once without ever thinking about getting a part-time job, finding a scholarship, or even taking out a student loan. 

         Your nurture could be the parenting style you were raised with. A parenting style is the way a parent approaches handling and raising their children. There are four main types of parenting styles; There’s also the authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved parenting styles. 

         When researching authoritarian parenting, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the parents from the 1996 family movie ‘Matilda’. In the movie her father says to her, “I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” This phrase and example of parents is a good summary of what authoritarian parenting is. It’s the concept of a one way street when it comes to parenting. The parent is completely in control and has no time nor care for what their child may think or need. 

         Authoritative parenting is the complete opposite of the previous style. If your parents used this parenting style, you’re more likely to be vulnerable and communicative with them. If I had to fit my mother into one of these parenting styles, it’d be authoritative parenting. We live as two people living two different lives, not so much as a “I’m big and you’re small,” household. When I make a mistake I’m feeling guilty about, I can tell her and she recognizes and verbalizes the consequences of my actions for me. Punishments may come but they’re natural and have an absolute reason for them. 

         Those parents you see in the mall getting walked all over by their seven year old are the permissive parents. Permissive parents are the ones who listen to everything their child says and there are no rules nor repercussions for bad behavior. The reason permissive parents are so hesitant to enforce rules is because they would prefer to avoid conflict with their child, even if it means they get disrespected by doing so. 

         Uninvolved or neglectful parenting is a less severe form of permissive parenting in my opinion. The child continues to have no boundaries but not because they’re getting their way, it’s just because their parents don’t care. Neglectful parents pay little to no attention to their children once they’ve done the bare minimum of feeding, clothing, and putting a roof over their heads. 

That being said, one could argue that there is a definite answer. For instance, why does a serial killer grow up with kind, loving parents yet they became someone as nasty as Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez? 

Some people have picked sides between the two and have advocated for their side since the beginning of this debate. To be realistic, there is no solid answer to this question, no answer to whether nurture or nature identifies who you are. Both your nature and nurture “are a fully interactive system” (BetterHelp) which work together to create a unique and individual personality, as previously stated. Nature and nurture can interact in both negative and positive ways. For example, a woman is born with a fear of vomiting and her child is not born with this phobia. Whilst the mother is so fearful of vomiting while raising her child, her child also develops a fear of vomiting due to the nurture her mother gave her. A nurturing aspect can be anything from a parenting style to a habit learned while growing up. 

The world never stops evolving in many ways that differ from others. There is no knowing whether we are nature or nurture driven because we don’t evolve as a species, we evolve individually as well. We can change based on the people surrounding us, due to mental illnesses, or even change of environment. Some of these, we can pick and choose to deal with. There is no sound answer to whether or not every person is the way they are because of either nature or nurture. It’s a complex answer which is that it’s a mixture of both. Many have asked themselves, ‘What are the contributing factors to your personality? What makes people the way they are? Is it due to a person’s DNA and environment, or is the decision up to you?’ Therapists, doctors, etc, have been able to study and witness the effects of both circumstances on their patients over many years. 

Works Cited

Powell, Kimberly. “Nature Versus Nurture”, August 19, 2019. Epub

Mcleod, Saul. “Nature vs. Nurture Debate in Psychology”, March 14, 2023, Epub

Carbajal, Alexis. “How do nature and nurture work together”, April 29, 2019, Epub

University of Haifa. “Trauma Experienced By A Mother Even Before Pregnancy Will Influence Her Offspring’s Behavior”, May 13, 2009, Epub

BetterHelp. “Nature Vs. Nurture Psychology: What Matters Most?”, March 31, 2023, Epub

NCBI Bookshelf. “From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development”, 2000, Epub

Smith, John A. “Nature Vs. Nurture: WHich Makes Us Addicted? Both, Actually”, May 8, 2023, Epub

LCSW, Amy Morin. “The 4 Types of Parenting Styles and How Kids Are Affected”, August 9, 2022, Epub 

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