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Nature vs. Nurture Essay

Over recent years the nature vs. nurture debate has been extensively discussed and researched. Should human characteristics such as intelligence, personality, behavior and ability be attributed to our genetics or our environment? One problem with this is how to pin a trait down to either an inherited or learned characteristic, or perhaps it’s both.

Are we to blame for our behavior or is inevitable due to our genetics? This question and others seems to be part of the controversy over the subject. Also, these questions play a factor in how to change and adapt behavior. Different techniques would be more effective depending on the cause of a particular behavior or characteristic.

When analyzing the causes of behavior problems in children the question of nature vs. nurture is a legitimate question. One recent study conducted by the University of Virginia and several others including one in Australia studied 1,045 twins and their 2,051 children. Some of the parents were identical twins with others being fraternal. This affected the amount of genes that were shared among the siblings. Participants were twins from a volunteer twin registry and information was gathered through a series of phone interviews beginning in 1993 and ending in 2003.

The study discovered that spousal fighting wasn’t to blame for behavioral problems in their children. Rather, it was the genes that influenced how often they argued with spouses. These genes when passed to their children caused more conduct problems. The conclusion of the study was that in family therapy, more focus on the child rather than the parents would be more effective (Society for Research in Child Development, 2007). This conclusion supports the theory that it is nature or our genetics that influence this particular behavior.

On the other end of the spectrum another study involved observing children in different childcare settings. Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development studied the children beginning in 1991 from the age of one month until they were school age. These 1,364 participants were selected at birth and were studied through phone and personal interviews at three month intervals. The children’s cognitive and social functioning was measured at certain intervals and followed up to the children on sixth grade. It was concluded that center based care yielded more aggression and disobedience than other types of childcare, with the quality of childcare was also found to be a factor (Society for Research in Child Development, 2007). This conclusion supports the theory that it is nurture or our environment that influences this particular behavior and the type of care children receive is an important factor in a child’s development.

Both of these studies posed the question of whether the cause of a particular problem, this one being behavioral issues, is genetic or ones environment. Both of these studies looked exclusively at one cause or the other with little being discussed about the other possibilities. The differences in the studies was the length of time given to each study with the genetic study being short term and the childcare study involving observations over a period of time. Another difference is the twin study looked at parents of a specific group, that being twins. The child care study looked at the children of many different types of parents.

While both of these studies have their merits, neither study was able to conclusively determine the cause of behavioral problems observed as being attributed solely to genetics or the environment. The question of which one plays a greater role will likely continue to be asked. Hopefully this leads to more research and answers that will further our understanding of human behavior.


Society for Research in Child Development (2007, March 26). Center-based Care Yields More Behavior Problems; In Other Types Of Care, Problems Short-lived. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2007/03/070326095340.htm.

Society for Research in Child Development (2007, February 7). Parents’ Genes, Not Parents’ Arguing, May Cause Children’s Conduct Problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2007/02/070207090943.htm.

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