A long-standing debate that refers to the origin of how people are shaped into who they are today is the nature vs. nurture argument. Nature, for instance, references our genes and hereditary factors, specifically regarding our physical appearance and personality traits that are responsible for making up our personality.
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Nurture points to our personalities being shaped by environmental variables such as social interactions, one’s upbringing, and childhood experiences. The argument for nature vs. nurture implies that one is more important to our growth and development than the other, but it is rather nature combined with nurture that molds a person into who they are. The argument originates from the book, “The Origin of Species,” where Charles Darwin presents the idea of evolution to the public. The theory of evolution claims that all species are related and their characteristics will gradually change over time to adapt for survival (Pleh). Francis Galton was influenced by this book and used it to drive his own ideas and tests. His first finding’s with intelligence testing was believed that genetics determined our intellectual ability and that it was hereditary (Plomin). Showing that the idea of nature over nurture was supported over many years by both Darwin and Galton, who became the modern founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics (Plomin). Watson, in the 1920s, shifted the view on the debate from nature to nurture with his testing involving the rat and the child.
Through this experiment, he was able to show that the environment could shape a person and create specific phobias that would leave a lasting impression on the subject throughout their life (Spielman 195). The ideas originating from Darwin sparked the debate of nature vs. nurture that is still had by psychologist today. The argument for nature vs. nurture leads you to believe that one plays a superior role when shaping our personality. In reality, the development of personality is better explained by nature and nurture working together, which is the point of view psychologist tend to take up today. In one study Karmiloff-Smith discusses human attachment both genetic makeup and the environment “dynamically interact, multi-directionally influencing one another in every aspect of development” (Adele). The data from this study indicate that “inconsistent or disrupted maternal communication tends to produce disorganized attachment in the child, but only if the child has a short allelic version of a dopamine receptor gene” (Gervai). Children with this genetic trait are already predisposed to have attachment/behavioral issues and then the environment is added. Depending on the child’s environment such as parenting styles and experiences paired with this genetic trait can alter the outcome of how the child develops in life. If the parenting in un-nurturing the child may struggle to maintain relationships later on in life or become stressed in certain situations (Adele).
The interactions between neurotransmitters and their interactions with environmental factors affect the outcome of development within a person. Reflecting back on my own life, nature can be seen in my genetic material. Physically it is clear that I resemble my mother as we are both blonde, blue-eyed, and white. Each of my parents has also been diagnosed with ADD, which in return increased my chances of developing it, which I did. I tend to be a Type A personality which can be characterized by ambition, high energy, and competitiveness and become more susceptible to stress. Each of my parents is also Type A personality so this could be a trait that has been passed down to me by my parents but this also could be me observing their behaviors growing up and adopting them as my own, making it nurture. When thinking about how nurture has impacted my life and shaped my personality I think of my relationships mainly and how observing people in the world have played the main part. Throughout my childhood, my mother and fathers parenting style could be broken down into two categories authoritarian and authoritative.
When acting on the authoritative parenting style, a blend of firm and soft discipline is used (Spielman). During this time I showed self-disciple, believing what I thought to be right and was unable to be persuaded into peer- pressure. I became very goal and task oriented and would follow these goals until completed and continually life planned for my future. At one point in my life, I remember my mom began to exemplify an authoritarian style. This switch in her parenting style switched up my behavior. My mother began to have very high expectations for me and it seemed like no matter how well I was doing in life it was never up to her standards. She provided little in feedback and nurturance, commenting on the things I could improve on never what I did well. I began to develop anxiety during this time and focussed solely on school instead of on friends and fun. I also had this nagging feeling of inadequacy because I began to associate success with love and since I could never attain the success she desired for me I felt as if I was a failure. Now, that I am out of the house our dynamic has changed and she no longer assumes the authoritarian role. I still struggle with anxiety because of this time and I am prone to being a people pleaser whereas I was not before, but now that my mother has become more balanced in the way she shows nurture I have been able to dissociate success with love. My parents are supportive and encouraging in my growth as a young adult. Now I no longer am concerned about a grade in a class defining my worth as I once did. They help in multiple ways to help advance me throughout life such as providing our family with a secure income and having us partake in diverse experiences. The nurturing or lack of nurturing throughout my development shaped my personality into who I am now.
A place where I see nature and nurture intertwined and working together is in my athletic ability. Looking at my parents I can see that that are both naturally athletic people. My father was always an active child and sports came easy for him. My mother was a runner all through her life and picked up sports quickly. Growing up I inherited these genetic abilities as I also was naturally athletic and was easily able to play new sports. It was in my nature to be naturally athletic. My parents then took this natural ability I had and began to nurture it. Throughout years of playing soccer competitively my parents never once complained about the time commitment or money, instead, they encouraged me to continue with it. They supplied me with the means such as money to attend a sports camp for my chosen sport and they provided me with personal trainers to help increase my athleticism. Within my parents allowing me to play soccer, they opened the door for me to form relationships with new people who have impacted and influenced me to this day. My parents took an ability I came by naturally and nurtured it to help me become who I am as a person. Tracing all the way back to Darwin to present day the debate for nature vs. nurture is still going strong. When looking at nature vs. nurture separately one can see how our biological makeup can account for certain personality traits and with nurture one can see how our experiences in life have shaped our personality. It is neither nature and nurture alone that makes us into the people we are today but instead these two have a way of working with each other to weave together our personality designed specifically for us.
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