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Nature and Nurture Problems in Early Years Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2021

You got that blue eyes from your father and that hair color from your mother but what about your singing or basketball skills? What about your good grades throughout the school? Did you learn that through practices or through some tutor or was it just there in you genes? This question as to what made us has been a major controversy throughout. The idea that our genes determine our personality is known as nature and the idea that the environmental factors are behind our development is known as nurture.

Hence, nature vs. nurture controversy is still not solved as to what percentage each contributes to our development but one thing is quite obvious, that each play a vital role. If genes determines who are traits then the environmental or social factor moulds it. But the question here is that apart from the eye color or height trait present in genes, features such as intelligence, aggression, sexual orientation and more are also present in the genes. Hence, the debate goes on.

For instance, we see the different behavior of an animal child and a human child. What is behind these actions? Is it all inborn that they act according to what is there in the DNA or do they learn through their surroundings? According to some scientists, it is innate, hereditary factors responsible for it whereas others say that it is the environmental factors and the social factors behind these actions. In a broader term, both of these concepts are correct and contribute to such behaviors which are a part of development. However, at one point, the nature is considered to play the most important role in development and on the other it is the nurture. However, the beauty lies in accepting the fact that both contribute to human development. (Lerner, 2001)

At this point, an argument arises as to what actually contributes the most to the human development; nature or nurture. Examining the time period we see, the idea of nature flourished in the beginning with the concept of Darwinism. Analyzing this theory of natural selection and the survival of fittest, an example can be considered that the most influential or gifted people actually belonged to the family of other influential individuals as in the cases of professions such as doctors, painters or sports players. Moving further, these concepts in human development took another turn with the concept of intelligence linked with racial and social class. White Americans are generally accepted to be intelligent with better personalities. But when studies were done, it revealed that Black Americans of some particular areas had a better IQ level then the Whites of that area. So it was seen that gradually, with time, the nature concept paved its way towards the nurture one. On the other hand, the bell curve made it visible that along with inheritance, social factors such as a prestigious job, schooling years, and family background all play an important role in human development although the genetic role outweighs the nurture factor.

Considering the nature and nurture impact on neural development, we see in childhood, mainly during the first three years, our brain aims at establishing connections with the neurons and thereby forming synapses. These synapses are important since they are stimulated through different activities. Those actions which are repeated become permanent in the form of synapses and are restored whereas those activities which are not used often are discarded. Hence, experience plays an important role in increasing these synapses.

Moving further, when we talk about child development, then there are two periods related to it; sensitive and critical periods. The former covers those broader periods which have a greater room for acquiring certain knowledge. For instance, this task of acquiring a new language or second language if not done in early years due to lack of opportunity or availability or any constraint can be acquired in later years of life.

However, the latter involves a limited frame where certain actions are to be performed during a certain period of time which otherwise would be eliminated due to lack or limited stimulation. For example, vision; if an infant does not see light for the first six months then he would lose this ability. Therefore, those skills which are acquired during the sensitive period determine your personality including your mental, emotional, neural, cognitive behavior. However, care and attention to toddler is necessary for developing a stronger personality. Hence, this is the neural development. Although we see nature playing a more important role here but in real, without the influence of environmental factors, this development is impossible. The ability for forming connections between the neurons is genetically present, but nurture moulds it. Thus, this is important for human development. At this stage, the child requires love, care, affection, activities and exposure which would develop his whole personality.

We see that nurture plays an important role when it comes to cognitive development in the early years. This can be seen through a number of factors which influence it such as IQ, gender, schooling and more. The intelligence score tests play a productive role in determining the cognitive ability. Moreover, the schooling years, the relation developed with peers and teachers, all influence the overall performance of the students. Interestingly, studies have seen that the contribution of gender difference to cognitive ability is seen during the age 10 onwards where it has been observed that females are good at certain areas such as verbal ability whereas boys lead when it comes to spatial skills. (Sternberg, 2000)

However, it has been seen that parent-child role plays an important role when it comes to cognitive and emotional development. At an early age, all these factors play a major role in developing Childs into intellectuals with strong personalities. This is why we often see adults facing problems when it comes to confidence or high levels of frustration. Attention, interaction, motivation all plays a significant role socio-emotional development. This is how nurture influences these developments.

Thus, this early development is shared by the nature and nurture. Studies show that attributes such as short-term verbal skills, reading skills, phonology are all determined by the genes as well as the environmental features and so none can be attributed with a higher percentage. (Brian, 2006)

For instance, there is a debate about sexual orientation having different perspectives from a nature and nurture perspective. While the nurture part would say that these desires are socially constructed along with the idea of attraction towards opposite sex, the nature part would rather stress on the sex hormones. According to this, several body ratios suggest that there is a link between biological factors and sexual orientation. (Lippa, 2002)

However, when we talk about genes, several questions arise as to do identical twins have the same genetic pattern? The answer is yes. On the other hand, if this is the case, then what about the difference in their personality? This is because of the environmental factor. Both of them have a blue eye color but one suffers from diabetes where the other has no risk at all. This is due to the environmental factor. In addition, one might ask that can environmental variables create a protective factor to enhance gene vulnerability? This is a pretty interesting question. Here we see that environmental factors do play an important role in strengthening that genetic ability.

For example, the difference in height among the siblings of the same family can be taken under consideration. Here, one child is taller than the younger one, maybe because of the poor nutrition diet of the mother while she was pregnant or maybe she was suffering from some other disease. Similarly, at times there are those genes present which determines our physical characteristic but due to lack of nutrition or other environmental factor, it fails to act accordingly. This is how nurture along with nature contribute towards making us.

Thus, to conclude, the debate between nature vs. nurture is quite controversial which is not resolved. Yet, it is clear from the studies that both plays an important role in the development of humans but to what extent is still a question to consider.


Brian, Genetic and environmental influence on early literacy, Journal of Research in Reading, ISSN 0141-0423, Volume 29, Issue 1, 2006, pp 33–49.

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