Approaches to Lifespan Development
Nature versus Nurture debate reflects two contrasting approaches to understanding the specifics of the factors influencing the lifespan development of a person. The first one is based on the belief that humans acquire most of their traits from nature, which means that the hereditary factor is the one determining the development of the personality.
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The second approach is based on the assumption that people acquire their traits from the environment, which means that the child is born with no specific characteristics and his/her behavioral patterns develop from the external influences throughout different life stages. While there is a vast amount of literature exploring both of the approaches, the modern sources mainly claim that both internal and external factors shape the personality.
In his article, Sameroff (2010) presents a view that unites the achievements of investigations in both nature and nurture influences on the development and calls for considering the two approaches as interrelated and complementary to each other. The author presents a well-developed reasoning for the claim that determining the influence of inner and external factors should not be regarded as opposing approaches and bases his assumptions on the data from relevant studies.
Sameroff uses a considerable number of scholarly references to support his point of view. The information he presents is clear and detailed, and the assumptions he makes are logical and well-grounded. The article can be considered credible and serve as an illustration to the inappropriateness of contrasting nature and nurture, as the knowledge about the interaction between the hereditary factors and environmental influences is the key to understanding the complex process of human development.
Though Sameroff and many other scholars regard to nature and nurture as the approaches that should be integrated, many scientists still view them as contrasting to each other. Within the theoretical framework of nature approach, the development is regarded as the result of the combination of hereditary factors given to every person from the birth. The advocates of this approach consider studying the genes the key to understanding the origins of the traits developed by people.
Cool (2014) analyzes Galton’s study on twins and comes to a conclusion that the stories of twins show the prevalence of nature over nurture. The adherents of nurture approach view environmental influences as the main factors shaping the development of a person and value the family and social environments as the main predictors of the personal traits the person develops throughout the life.
However, as it was mentioned previously, the majority of modern scholars insist on the importance of studying the personality development by integrating nature and nurture approaches (Kandler 2014; Robinson 2004).
Many scientists support such integration by presenting the evidence of the fact that even epigenetic factors are susceptible to the influence of environment, which means that nature and nurture are not opposing but impacting each other (Tammen, Friso, & Choi, 2013; GadjeV, 2015). Therefore, only the integration of both approaches can provide the modern science with an opportunity to understand and predict such a complex process as personality development across a lifespan.
Contributions of Theory to Practice
Operant learning theory would predict that Karen will search for the opportunities to express herself and receive empathy from the members of the group in the next group session. Such behavior is stimulated by positive reinforcement Karen received during the previous session from the group members who supported her and the counselor who reflected her emotions with concern and sensitivity.
Erikson’s developmental theory suggests that the negative outcomes of the crisis experienced by Karen might include the development of the feeling of loneliness and angst and considering oneself incapable of loving and being loved. The positive outcomes might include Karen’s motivation to learn to make compromises and sacrifices necessary for long-term intimate relationships.
Social learning theorists would predict that the group will be ready to support Karen again, as its participants observed the positive result of demonstrating empathy to the person suffering from the crisis in the relationships.
Multidimensional or systems view can be applied to solutions for Karen’s developmental concerns by suggesting that the assessment of various internal and external factors influencing the woman’s personality should be conducted to reveal what factors have a negative impact on the development of her mature personality and eliminate them.
The knowledge of theory contributes to our understanding of lifespan development significantly by revealing that this is a complex process influenced by numerous factors and teaching us that no single approach can be considered as the most righteous one. Instead, the integration of various approaches is the key to understanding the specifics of different stages of lifespan development better.
Such knowledge is essential for the work in counseling psychology, as understanding the origins of traits and behavioral patterns of the person is the key to finding the methods to eliminate negative factors and help the person to deal with disturbing problems or overcome crisis. Theoretical knowledge is the key to successful practice in profession aimed at providing psychological assistance for people facing problems at different stages of the development of their personalities.
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Cool, A. (2014). Twins, nature, and nurture. BioSocieties, 9(2), 225-227.
Gadjev, I. (2015). Nature and nurture: Lamarck’s legacy. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 114, 242–247.
Kandler, C. (2014). Personality development between nature and nurture. Keynotes / Personality and Individual Differences, 60, S79–S82.
Robinson, G. (2004). Beyond nature and nurture. Science, 304(5669), 397-399.
Sameroff, A. (2010). A unified theory of development: A dialectic integration of nature and nurture. Child Development, 81(1), 6-22.
Tammen, S., Friso, S., & Choi, S. (2013). Epigenetics: The link between nature and nurture. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 34, 753-764.