In this essay I will be discussing the basics and the details of the Nature vs Nurture debate, along with how genetics, environment and personal experiences can affect the development of an individual in relation to both nature and nurture. To further discuss the debate I will be using two case studies to discuss how nature and nurture can affect the PIE’S of two life stages. The basics of the Nature vs Nurture debate are centred on the study of how particular aspects of an individual’s behaviour are influenced, or are a product of either genetic or acquired characteristics. Nature is what we are born with and what we grow up with, for example our genetic hair colour.
Nurture is what we develop over time due to our environment and personal experiences, so if we dye our hair a different colour from our natural colour. Those who believe strongly in the Nature side believe that all our traits, including our intelligence and personality, come from our DNA and genes passed down from our parents. Whereas those who believe strongly in the Nurture side believe that our minds are born with a “blank slate”, and that as we grow and age through the life stages, we develop our personality, intelligence and other traits. One notable theorist in relation to this topic is Jean Piaget, who created a new field of research in the area of child development. He focused on the cognitive and intellectual development of children, and eventually developed his own theory on the Stages of Cognitive Development. He suggested that all individuals must go through stages of biological development that build upon one another. For example, as a new born we cannot speak but as a three-year-old we are beginning to construct simple sentences.
When it came to Nature vs Nurture, it suggested that Piaget was for both sides of the debate, as he produced a theory suggesting that all individuals must go through different stages of biological development, along side a theory that a child’s development is linked with their environment. Along with Jean Piaget, another very influential Theorist in the Nature vs Nurture debate is Francis Galton, who was the individual to originally create the phrase. He himself believed that the chances of an individual being able to think intellectually came from their parents, and for someone to be very intelligent it was a “natural superiority”, meaning that he favoured the Nature side over Nurture. Along with this theory, he also believed that society needed to be improved by better breeding or “selective breeding”, meaning people should procreate to choose certain positive traits, such as being intelligent.
Another theorist who favoured the Nature side of the debate was Bowlby, a man who created the Attachment Theory. His theory suggested that a child is born biologically pre-programmed to from a specific attachment to their mother in order to survive. He also suggested that if the need is not fulfilled, if the child does not form a bond with their mother as an infant, it can develop differently to a child that was able to develop a strong attachment and bond to their mother. For example, if the child was not able to create that initial bond with their mother as an infant this can negatively affect the child’s personal interactive skills, self-esteem and attachment to others later in their life. The first case study I will be using to further discuss the Nature vs Nurture debate, is the case study of Jed. Jed was admitted to CCU with severe chest pain and was later diagnosed with an acute heart attack. He was told the damage could be changed and stopped if he added positive changes to his life style. Jed lived what many would consider an unhealthy life style, as he was a heavy smoker and drinker and survived on a diet high in fats and sugar and low in fibre. Since he was a teenager, he would binge drink at the pub with his friends once a week and had not given up the tradition in his adulthood.
However, since struggles with money had developed in his life, alongside relationship problems with his wife and children as a result of the money issues, Jed began drinking at the pub more often, as well as smoking more often. It was after a particularly large intake of alcohol that Jed had developed chest pains and was admitted to hospital. The question is whether Jed’s position was caused by Nature or Nurture. I personally feel that it is one of Nurture, which I can prove using Jean Piaget’s theory. As I stated above, Piaget believed that an individual’s development and behaviour was partially dependent on their environment. Jed began drinking at a young age as a ritual with his friends, as well as heavy drinking sessions being a part of the culture within his society, through drinking at funerals, weddings, and even births as a form of celebration. Due to him being surrounded by an environment such as this at a young age it is easily explainable why Jed continued it later in life. As a result of his environment throughout his adolescent life stage, Jed has affected his PIES later in life. He negatively affected his physical development through drinking form a very young age and carrying this on in his adulthood, later causing health issues and money issues. Another aspect of his whole being that Jed will have negatively affected is his emotional development.
Due to his heavy drinking and smoking and money problems his relationship with his wife and children has suffered. The pressure of having to witness his ill-health and the stress of having money problems has caused a break down in the family relationships, which in turn can cause a great deal of stress and pressure on Jed himself, therefor influencing him to increase his drinking and smoking so as to relieve the pressure. His social development has been negatively affected by his drinking and gambling as he suffers from money problems. It could not be suggested that his heart problems were a result of Nature, as the Nature side states that an individual’s development is decided by their DNA and the genes passed onto them by their parents, and Jed did not have a family history of heart problems, so Nurture is the theory that explains his health problems and adulthood life stage development most accurately.
A notable theorist whose belief can support my argument of Nurture having a strong role in Jed’s situation is Albert Bandura, who studied social learning. He did an experiment with a doll, that showed how it is possible for children to develop aggressive behaviour simply by witnessing it. This theory proves that Nurture has a direct affect o an individual’s development through the life stages. In Jen’s case he witnessed heavy drinking and drinking often to celebrate things from a young age, so in turn he developed the same behaviour with his friends at adolescence and carried it on to adulthood. The second case study I will be discussing shows how Nurture can affect the PIES of an individual. Julian had a much different lifestyle to Jed. He was very fit and health conscious, regularly partaking in sports and positive health behaviours such as not smoking and drinking very little. As well as this he was aware of his added risk of developing heart disease as he had a family history of it. Throughout his adolescent stage of development Julien was aware of his risk of heart disease, which resulted in him actively deciding not to drink or smoke heavily, to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. However, due to his family history Julien suffered from Familial Hypercholesterolemia, meaning he had the genetic condition of having higher than normal blood cholesterol level.
I personally feel that his condition was due to Nature, as he inherited it through his parents’ genes. The PIES of his adult life stage of development have been affected by the Nature side of things, and it could be argued that Nurture made no difference as it was an inherited condition and he practiced very healthy behaviours, yet his physical development was still affected in his adult life. Along with this, his intellectual development was affected as he was more educated on positive health behaviours than Jed was, as he was aware of his possibility of developing heart disease. This aspect proves Piaget’s theory of development as his environment made him more intellectually developed in the specific area of health and fitness. Another one of the PIES affected by Nature in his adulthood stage of development is his emotional development. His emotional development will have been negatively affected by Nature in his adulthood as he tried very hard to live a healthy lifestyle, yet still suffered and was still diagnosed with a heart condition, which could have made him very frustrated with both himself and his situation. This in turn can make him closed off towards his family as he deals with his diagnosis and the situation.
Throughout this situation, Julien’s social development will also have been affected by Nature during his adulthood, as he took part in a lot of sports activities and focused a lot on his health. This meant that Julien focused his social life and social interaction on activities that promoted good health behaviours, in turn meaning that he may not have socialised with individuals who drank at pubs very often, or who smoke very often. A theorist who can add more influence to the argument of Nature is John Locke, who believed that as infants we are born with our minds as a blank state, and that as we develop everything we have knowledge of, and how we act is a result of our environment. This can be applied to Julien’s situation as he was aware from a young age that heart disease was hereditary, so in turn he pursued healthy behaviours to try and combat this. In conclusion, I have discovered our development through the life stages can be affected by both Nature and Nurture, our genes and our environment. This is shown through Julien’s situation of him having a healthy lifestyle yet still developing heart disease as he had a family history of it, and through Jed not having a family history but partaking in unhealthy behaviours that caused his heart disease, through him witnessing drinking as being a large part of his culture at a young age.
So in turn, Nature and Nurture play a large role in our development, not just one or the other, it depends on the circumstances of the individual.