Nurture Beats Nature

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Feral humans are one of the best examples of how environment affects a human’s behavior despite of genes. A feral human is a child that grows up in the wild isolated from human contact. These people live from a very young age without experiencing human behavior, care, and lack the ability of speech of human language. Genetically, feral humans are similar to their parents but the environmental factors massively affected their identity and style of living. Robert Plomin, an American psychologist and geneticist, claimed that children “create an environment that kind of in line with their genetic tendencies.” (Plomin 4:08). However, feral humans are a strong falsification of that. Oxana Malaya, a Ukrainian girl, was abandoned by her alcoholic parents at the age of 8. She was found six years later living with dogs in a kennel. She moved on four limbs, only knew how to say yes or no, and barked as communication. This is just a mild case, there’s an extreme case of a boy named Shamdeo who lived with wolfs. He craved blood and would eat anything on earth. The boy died at the age of 13 without knowing how to speak (Macdonald 2015). Both these cases provide strong evidence that nurture shapes a person’s behavior and lifestyle. If genes create the environment like Plomin claimed, Oxana and Shamdeo would be behaving normally like you and I.

Environment also has a huge role on mental illness. James Plomin mentioned the three identical twins and how they’re all subject to depression. While certain genes may create a tendency to suffer from a certain illness, the probability to develop that illness depends solely on nurture. James H. Fallon, an American neuroscientist, did some research on himself and his family and found out that he has the genes associated with psychopathy. “I’m 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern,” he says, “In a sense, I’m a born killer.” (Fallon). But of course, he isn’t a killer. James Fallon believes that growing up in a loving environment made him a successful adult and prevented him from developing the traits of a psychopath that he has in his genes. Similarly, environmental aspects affect addiction in a huge scale. Habits of partners, friends, or parents are significant factors of developing addiction. A person is more likely to have addiction if he or she gets routinely exposed to someone who binge drinks or does any other form of alcohol abuse ( Moreover, researchers at University of Liverpool found out “that traumatic life events are the biggest cause of anxiety and depression” (University of Liverpool website). All this powerfully supports that nurture has a significant role in the development of mental illnesses.

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Lastly, Parents have significant influence on children’s emotional development. Plomin claimed that “parents don’t make a difference” (Plomin 11:30), but Dr. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of Child Psychology in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, proved otherwise. By analyzing Ainsworth’s Strange Situation experiments, Dr. Sroufe found that early attachment relationships foresee children’s later emotional development. “Such variations [of relationship quality] are not reflections of genetically based traits of the infant but of the history of interaction with the parent” (Sroufe 188). This states that attachment styles are not genetically inborn but are formed by how parents interact with their children from birth. Moreover, an important factor in children’s emotional development is how warm parents are. Depressed mothers have dysfunctional attitudes and behavior, and these, along with being in the same stressful environment as the mother, put the child at a huge risk of developing his or her own emotional problems (Sroufe 204). Subsequently, children need to learn how to regulate emotions. Children watch how their parents interact with other people and show emotions, and they try to imitate them to regulate emotions (Sheffield Morris et. al). Furthermore, how parents respond to their children’s emotions affects how expressive the child will be. When a parent criticizes or dismisses the child’s anger or sadness, that sends a message to the child that his or her emotions are not valid and thus causing the child to be less able to cope with stress (Siegler et. al). Parenting does matter in infants’ lives because it affects how children turn out to be emotionally.

The nature versus nurture matter is of great debate. Like Francis Galton, an English Victorian era sociologist and psychologist, once said “Nature is all that a man brings with him into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth.” Whether it’s human behavior, mental illness, or emotional development, nurture plays a massive and vital role in shaping a person’s identity. 


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