Exploring The Nature Vs Nurture Child Development Debate

Updated October 25, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In general, the science and psychology behind human development haven’t figured out whether nature (genetic factors) or nurture (environmental factors) has a greater impact on child development. What we do know about the nature versus nurture debate is that both factors affect human behavior, just in different ways.

What Is Nature Versus Nurture?

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Nature refers to innate characteristics, like a child’s genetic disposition, physical characteristics, how their brain functions, and other biological factors that both parents and children have no control over, like whether a child has green eyes or blonde hair. Nature can also encompass certain hereditary factors such as a child’s special needs, behavior genetics, or proclivities for certain mental health conditions. 

Nurture refers to the actions parents and caregivers take as well as environmental influences and external factors that affect the way your child is raised and their personality develops throughout their early life. These factors include the way you interact with your child, where your child goes to school, and the influence of their friends and teachers, among environmental effects.

Which Has A Greater Impact: Nature Vs Nurture Child Development

Scientists and researchers in the field of abnormal and social psychology often debate how nature and nurture interact when it comes to children’s individual differences and psychological traits. The “extreme nature position” argues that genetic differences will always win out in child development, meaning that the child will develop certain behavioral traits no matter what environment they are raised in. The “extreme nurture position,” on the other hand, argues that the child’s environment will exclusively shape what kind of person they become, no matter what human genetics they are born with. There are arguments for both positions. 

Many believe that no matter what you do, there are personality traits of your child that just will not change. Just like you can’t change genetic factors, like switching their eye color from green to blue, some people believe that you can’t take a child who naturally has anger concerns and make them less angry, even if you take their stressors away. It’s just part of their nature.

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Nurture supporters, however, disagree. People who support the power of nurture argue that external factors, such as environmental influences, can completely change a child’s development during early childhood. A child who seems not to care about learning could transfer to a new school and suddenly be on the path to amazing things. 

Those who support nurture as the deciding factor of development often cite cases of identical twins raised in different environments from early childhood, positing that because they are genetically identical, the only factor that could have changed the development of the children was their environment, meaning that it must be the most influential.

The Truth Of The Nature Vs Nurture Child Development Debate

The truth is that 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 genetic and environmental influences that work together to help a child develop into a teen or young adult. But, no matter which is the most important force in your child’s life and development, nurture is the only factor you have any control over.

Understanding Your Child

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The key to parenting is often understanding your child. Giving them every possible chance to be happy, healthy, and successful through positive environmental factors is usually going to be your best bet, no matter what their behavioral genetics may be. Even if it’s true that nature has a strong impact on development, at least you can try to be sure that you are doing everything possible to shape and mold that nature in the most positive way.

If you need help with your parenting process, you want to learn more about nature and nurture, or if you think your child might need help in any way, reaching out to a professional is a great step. Talking with a psychiatrist that you feel comfortable with and that you can trust can help you and your child grow and become stronger individuals. You may consider online therapy, which has been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy and can be modified and adapted to meet your schedule and needs, which is convenient for most parents.

BetterHelp is a great place for you and your child to get the mental health help that you want and need. This service is entirely online and allows you to sit down anywhere with an internet connection and talk to a psychiatrist right there, in an environment where you’re most comfortable.

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