Nature vs. Nurture: Which Impacts Your Child’s Development More?

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The Nature vs. Nurture argument is an age-old discussion that has occupied many scholars in the field of child development and beyond. Are we born with our intelligence, ability to learn, and personality traits pre-destined?  Or does our environment, the method in which we are raised and educated, have the ability to make drastic changes? 


With a wealth of research done on the subject, experts seem to have come to the general conclusion that both nature and nurture factors have an influence on the end result of a child’s development.  Certainly, genetics play a role in a child’s physical characteristics which include the brain itself.  Congenital abnormalities can limit or enhance a child’s ability to learn.  But this is far from the final word

“Parents are the keys to intellectual development for almost all children in the care and education they provide and arrange. Many research studies underscore the links between parental involvement and young children's intelligence,”Craig Ramey, PhD, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Health and Development states.  The activities, learning tools and even simply the time and attention given to a child by parents and caregivers can have a dramatic impact on the child’s development and intelligence.  The brain itself grows and develops in response to what the child experiences through the use of the five senses.


The argument has a new side to it as well – how does the environment react with a child’s genetics to determine how genetic predispositions will be either enhanced or decayed?  Dr. Wayne Frankel of the Jackson Laboratory suggests that “the genome responds to the environment by allowing new changes (mutations) in genes.”  In other words, our genes – our nurture – responds to the environment and even affect nature.


So what does the research up until this date tell us?  Here is a basic overview of where the debate stands:

·         Genetics play a strong role in determining predisposition towards certain skills and talents

·         Environmental factors have a great deal of influence on how those genetics are developed and expanded

·         Brain development in the first three years is a direct result of experience taken in by a child through all five senses, making the environment crucial to development


Nature vs. Nurture may become less of an argument as more research proves that both are necessary components to a child’s development.  As parents, we have a great deal of control over how our children will develop, and all evidence suggests that nurture exerts a high level of influence, even over some genetic factors.

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