How Does Nature Vs. Nurture Affect Your Child?

By: Nadia Khan

Updated August 17, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday

Maybe you've heard of the great nature/nurture debate, and maybe you haven't. Maybe you have an opinion on which side is having the most influence on your child and which one seems to be taking a backseat. In general, science and psychology haven't figured out which is the most important, but they're working on some research and studies to find out more. What we know is both of them are going to affect your child, just in different ways.

What is Nature Versus Nurture?

Let's take a look at what nature and nurture are before we start looking at which one is going to have the most impact on your child. Nature is the way that your child is born. It looks at things like their genetic makeup and the function of their brain. These are things that you and they have no control over because it's formed in them. This means things like green eyes and blonde hair, but it also means things like any special needs or even whether they seem like they're happy or sad. No one knows why these things are, but the child is just 'born that way.' It's 'in their nature.'

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Nurture looks at the things that you do, and others do when it comes to raising your child. Things in the environment that affect the way your child is raised are going to reflect the nurture component. The specific culture that you bring your child up in is going to shape them differently from a child who is raised in a different culture. This includes the way you interact with your child or where they go to school. The friends they have, the teachers they have, all of these things affect the nurture of your child.

What Does More?

The great debate is what has the biggest influence on any given child? Does their nature win out and the child will turn out a certain way no matter what kind of influence is put on them from the outside? Or does their nurture win out and the child could turn out differently based on a different environment no matter what their genetics and their internal aspects might say? 

The Argument for Nature

Many believe that nature always wins out in the end, and no matter what you do, there are things about your child that just will not change. Just like you can't change their eye color from green to blue, you can't change a child who is intrinsically happy all the time for no apparent reason to make them different. You can't take a child who naturally has anger problems and make them less angry or violent, even if you take their stressors away.

The supporters of nature tend to look at psychopaths and say that it doesn't matter how they were raised, there was something in them that just couldn't be changed. Nature believers say that there was absolutely nothing that those parents could have done to prevent their child from developing the way that they did. Some famous serial killers have come out of the worst of the worst situations, but even more of them have come out of completely normal households with parents that did everything they possibly could to change them. 

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The Argument for Nurture

On the other hand, some say that the nurture of a child will always win out. They say that there are always things that could be done differently and that can change the outcome for a child, if you let it. These individuals have their case studies and their examples to take a look at as well. This is why it's difficult to tell who is actually in the right when it comes to this debate.

Nurture believers say that the influence of outside forces can sidetrack absolutely anyone. A child who seems to be extremely bright but makes the wrong friends could go down a completely different path. A child who seems not to care about anything at all around them could get a new family or a new school and suddenly be on the path to amazing things. They look a range of different individuals who have gone from either path to the next as their examples of nurture winning out.

The Truth of the Debate

The truth is we may never know which aspect of development plays a bigger role in how children develop or how they will turn out. There is at least some aspect of each that works together to form a child into a teen or young adult and even further on to their full adulthood. But no matter whether nature or nurture is the most important force in your child's life, nurture is the only one you can do anything about. Wouldn't you want to look back and say that you did everything you felt was best for your child rather than say that you just let nature take its course? 

Understanding Your Child

The key is making sure that you look at your child and understand them. Giving them every chance you possibly can to be happy, healthy and successful is always going to be your best bet, no matter what their nature may be. That doesn't mean giving them everything they possibly want in life, but it does mean giving them opportunities, giving them love, and being a positive role model for them. Even if it's true that nature will always win out in the end, at least we're doing everything possible to shape and mold that nature in the strongest way.

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If you need help with your parenting process or if you think your child might need help in any way, reaching out to a professional is a great step. You want to make sure that you talk with a psychiatrist that you feel comfortable with and that you can trust to help you and your child grow and become stronger individuals. Just because your child is the one that's still growing doesn't mean that you can't make changes in your life as well, and it's important that you be willing to try.

BetterHelp is a great place for you and your child to get the help that you want and need. It's a way to reach out, online, to a psychiatrist that you feel comfortable talking to, in a place that you feel comfortable talking to them. This service is entirely online and allows you to sit down anywhere with an internet connection and talk to a psychiatrist right there, where you're most comfortable.


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