For centuries, the debate has existed within the psychological community and beyond concerning the topic of nature versus nurture in terms of human development and achievement. Specifically, what is the main influence on a person - their genetics or their environment?
Nature vs. Nurture Issues
The crux of the nature side of the debate is that genetics or other natural influences are mostly, if not all, responsible for the characteristics pertaining to the personality, behavior and intelligence of an individual.
Conversely, the nurture debate largely argues that the main contribution to how a person develops is made by the influence of the people and events that interact with that person throughout their life.
While many contemporary psychologists and other individuals agree that development is influenced by both nature and nurture, the participation of genetics vs. environment is still a hot topic, particularly when certain subjects are discussed such as intelligence, personality and homosexuality.
When someone achieves greatness thanks to an innovation or other breakthrough, it is usually agreed that the individual has a high level of intelligence. Often, when exploring the background of the individual, the influences of nature versus nurture are questioned.
- Nature - Those who would argue that nature is largely to thank for the individual’s ability to achieve greatness might point to his or her parents and use their level of intelligence as a reason for why he or she is so successful. Perhaps the child developed early skills quickly and this would be used to show that the child was clearly, “born smart.”
- Nurture - Those who would argue that a child's intelligence was affected by nurture would look at the child's educational background as well as how his or her parents raised her. These individuals would state that the intelligence level which permitted the child to be so successful, is largely the result of the child's upbringing and the school system.
The development of personality traits is often part of the nature versus nurture debate. People want to know how children develop their personalities.
- Influence of the parents - Often it is easy to see similarities between a child’s personality and one or both of her parents’ personalities. In this situation, it would seem that the child's personality has developed largely from the influence of the parents.
- Effects of nature - In some situations, children develop personalities, or tendencies toward certain behaviors, such as shyness or aggression, that can’t seem to be explained because neither parent demonstrates the same trait. In this situation, it can be argued that nature is at play in the development of the child's personality.
The debate about homosexuality and whether the genesis of which is the result of nature or nurture has spanned throughout history, but has taken on even greater importance in more recent years as the rights of these individuals are being hotly debated throughout the world.
- Effects of environment - Some individuals believe that homosexuality is a choice. Others believe that it is the result of something having negatively affected an individual, such as sexual assault, causing the individual to become homosexual. These debates focus on the influence of nurture and the individuals feel that environmental factors are the cause of one’s homosexuality.
- Biological factor - Other individuals believe that homosexuality is a biological factor, no more a choice than eye color or foot size. These individuals are debating from the perspective of nature being responsible for the development of the individual.
These examples show several ways that the nature vs. nurture debate plays out in real life.