The debate about what determines a child’s personality has been waging for years. Supporters of the nature theory believe that genetics determine personality. While supporters of the nurture theory do believe that physical traits are inherited they believe that is where the
genetic influence ends.
The Nurture Theory: Environment
Those that support nurture feel that children are like a clean slate and the experiences they have in life and people who influence them determine what is written upon the slate. Genetics may play a role in deciding personality traits, but ultimately environmental factors determine who we become.
The list below contains examples of how environmental factors affect personality.
Abusers: Evidence from numerous studies supports that children who have been abused are more likely to become abusers themselves. Proving that the environment determines the behavior.
Conditioning: One of my favorite examples of nurture is from the movie My Fair Lady. In which Professor Higgins takes Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl, and turns her into a lady of society. Her genetics didn’t determine the type of person that she was, but the environment that she had grown up in. But Professor Higgins changed the environment hence changing the person.
Scientists, such as John Watson and B.F. Skinner have completed numerous experiments in which they proved that environment greatly impacts a person. In 1920 Watson took an orphan, Albert, who was afraid of nothing except loud noise. He then conditioned him by hitting a hammer on a piece of steel every time he saw a rat. Soon every time Albert saw the rat he was terrified, his fear also transferred to other hairy objects. Proving that environment was stronger than genetics.
Humor: A study in New Scientist suggests that humor is a learned trait. The study was conducted with 127 pairs of twins who rated how funny they thought a variety of Far Side Cartoons were. “Surprisingly, the identical twins shared no more common responses to the jokes than did the fraternal twins during the study.“ Family upbringing had a greater contribution of the reaction of the twins than did genetics.
Twins: Environment must play a factor in determining traits. Because if not twins, whose DNA is exactly the same, would be exactly the same, even if they were raised apart. Studies show that twins are similar in many aspects but not exactly the same.
So which theory is correct, nature or nurture? Do you as a parent have any impact on your child’s personality? My upcoming blog “Nature or Nurture” will answer that question.
For more information about the nature theory read my blog “The Nature Theory.”