Nature vs. Nurture


The Nature vs. Nurture argument is an age-old discussion that has occupied many academics 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?

The underlying question of this debate is, whether genetic factors (nature) or environmental factors (nurture) are more important in determining child development. Nature refers to biological or hereditary information that affects child development and learning. Nurture refers to the day to day interactions children encounter in their environment.

Whether one sides with “nature” or “nurture” makes a tremendous difference in the way we, both as parents and a society, raise our children

During large parts of the 20th century “behavourism“ dominated the field of psychology.  It proposed that all our actions, from the simplest smile to the most sophisticated chess move, are learned through reward and punishment, trial-and-error interactions with other people and objects in the world. Babies, according to this view, are born as “blank slates,” without predispositions, and infinitely malleable through parental feedback and tutoring.

Towards the latter part of the century huge leaps were made in the field of molecular biology and these advances have led many to believe that parents and society make little difference. A child’s fate, according to this view, is largely determined by heredity, leaving little we can do to improve matters.

Neuroscientists find it hard to fully accept this position. Of course genes are important, but anyone who has ever studied nerve cells can tell you how remarkably plastic they are. The brain itself is literally molded by experience: every sight, sound, and thought leaves an imprint on specific neural circuits, modifying the way future sights, sounds, and thoughts will be registered. Brain hardware is not fixed, but living, dynamic tissue that is constantly updating itself to meet the sensory, motor, emotional, and intellectual demands at hand.

The effect of nature and nurture working together is most critically important in the earliest years of the child’s life when the growth of the brain is at its highest. The brain’s plasticity and the child’s predisposition to learn are shaped by environmental influences and stimulation of physical, emotional, social, cultural and cognitive nature in creating new pathways in learning and development. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge that nature is inseparable from nurture and that both nature and nurture are sources of human potential and growth.

That is why attachment and how parents/caregivers respond to the child play such an essential part in building firm and positive foundations for the child’s success in life.

At Baby College we believe in the importance of early experiences and environment and the influence they will have throughout a child’s life.  If parents or caregivers agree then they will also be keen to provide stimulating activities for their children at this early age.



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