How Does Nature Vs. Nurture Affect Your Child?

Updated October 27, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In general, science and psychology haven’t figured out whether nature or nurture is the most important in raising a child, but they’re working on some research and studies to find out more. What we do know is that both of them are going to affect your child, just in different ways.

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.

What Is Nature Versus Nurture?

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Nature is the way that your child is born and includes things like their genetic makeup and the function of their brain. These are things that you and they have no control over, like whether they have green eyes or blonde hair, but it also means things like any special needs or their proclivities for certain mental health conditions. No one knows exactly why these things are; the child is just ‘born that way,’ so it’s ‘in their nature.’

Nurture looks at the things that you and others do when it comes to raising your child as well as things in the environment that affect the way your child is raised. 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, where they go to school, the friends they have, and the teachers they have, among other things.

Which Does More, Nature Or Nurture?

Possibly the greatest debate around this topic is which factor has the biggest influence on any given child. Does their nature win out, meaning that 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, meaning that the child could turn out differently based on a different environment no matter what their genetics and their internal aspects might say? There are arguments for both positions.

The Argument For Nature

Many believe that nature always wins out in the end, and that 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, some people believe you can’t change a child who is intrinsically happy all the time for no apparent reason to make them different, or that 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 instances of psychopathy and say that it doesn’t matter how the individual was raised, there was something in them that just couldn’t be changed. Nature believers often say that there was absolutely nothing that those parents could have done to prevent their child from developing the way that they did. They present the idea that 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.

The Argument For Nurture

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Some say that the nurture of a child will always win out. They may say that there are always things that could be done differently which can change the outcome for a child if you let it. These individuals have case studies and examples to consider as well.

Nurture believers often 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 usually look a range of different individuals who have gone from either path to the next as their examples of nurture winning out.

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

The Truth Of The 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 both nature and nurture that works together to form a child into a teen or young adult and even further on to their full adulthood, but no matter which is the most important force in your child’s life, nurture is the usually only one you can do anything about.

Understanding Your Child

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The key is often in 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 usually 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. 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 strongest way.

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. 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 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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