Ways that Nature and Nurture Influence Human Development

Ways that Nature and Nurture Influence Human Development
Ways that Nature and Nurture Influence Human Development




One of the most important features of all living beings is change. The changes are most striking when we see the transition in human life spanning from conception to death. The journey from an unborn baby to an adult and then on to an old person is very fascinating. Even a casual observation of the human lives around you will make it clear that several changes happen each day in our bodies and psychological functioning. Some changes are noticeable while some cannot be immediately or clearly observed. Some of these changes are determined more by hereditary or genetic factors, while some depend more on environmental and cultural factors.

Different cultures hold different goals for development and use different strategies to bring up children. In order to help individuals develop in the best way possible, it is important to understand the nature and process of development throughout the life-span (McLeod, 2017).



Life begins at conception when mother’s ovum fertilized by the father’s sperm and a new organism is created. From that point till death an individual keeps on changing. Such changes are not random but orderly and generally follow a pattern. It may be noted that the developmental changes are not always incremental or evolutionary. They may also involve a decline in the functioning called “involution”. A child loses milk teeth in the process of development while an old person may show decay in memory and physical functioning. Development, therefore, is best viewed as a gain-loss relationship in which newer and different kinds of changes take place. Older behavior patterns may lose their salience while new ones may emerge.

Development is shaped by the joint influences of both nature and nurture in a cultural context. Nature refers to the hereditary contribution a child receives from parents at the time of conception. Genetics determines several aspects of a person’s physical structure and functioning as well as some psychological characteristics to a certain extent. Nurture refers to the influences of the complex physical and social ecology in which we develop and grow. Various aspects of the child’s ecology (e.g. physical facilities, social institutions and rituals, and school) influence the developmental outcomes in important ways.

For some time, we have known that development results from the dynamic interplay of nature and nurture. From conception on, we grow and learn because our biology is programmed to do so and because our social and physical environment provides stimulation. At birth, the human brain is still preparing for full operation. The brain’s neurons exist mostly apart from one another. The brain’s task for the first 3 years is to establish and reinforce connections with other neurons. These connections are formed when impulses are sent and received between neurons. Axons send messages and dendrites receive them.

The phrase “nature and nurture” referred to the expression of two opposite views, one predominately from Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” posits that a person’s personality originates in the womb, with genetic and hereditary factors contributing to our primary traits. In a mean while, other scholars, like John Locke believed the human psyche is primarily developed by a person’s environment and surroundings. Besides genetics, heredity, and immediate environment, additional factors like physical traits, cultural and situational atmosphere also potentially contribute to a person’s disposition.

Moreover, the nature-nurture controversy is an age-old dispute among behavioral psychologists, philosophers, theologians, and theorists of consciousness as to the source of the creation of human personality: Does it develop primarily from biology (nature), or from the environments in which we are raised (nurture)?

Some philosophers such as Plato and Descartes suggested that certain things are inborn, or that they occur naturally regardless of environmental influences. Nativists take the position that all or most behaviors and characteristics are the results of inheritance.

Other well-known thinkers such as John Locke believed in what is known as tabula rasa, which suggests that the mind begins as a blank slate. According to this notion, everything that we are and all of our knowledge is determined by our experience.

Empiricists take the position that all or most behaviors and characteristics result from learning. Behaviorism is a good example of a theory rooted in empiricism. The behaviorists believe that all actions and behaviors are the results of conditioning. Theorists such as John B. Watson believed that people could be trained to do and become anything, regardless of their genetic background.

A common explanation of everyday behavior implies that some human activities are excused or expected as instinctual responses to environmental stimuli (Hull 2006). This fixed human nature supposedly makes us innately good or bad, competitive or cooperative, aggressive or peaceful, matriarchal or patriarchal.

In addition, keeping track on this view, Locke claimed that “biological evolution created a human mind that enabled culture evolution, which now outpaces and outclasses the force that birthed it…The human mind is flexible and creative and allows humans to adapt to almost any condition on the Earth and beyond” (Hull 2006). Blank-slate philosophies argue that we use our rationality to identify and negotiate an appropriate land ethic and that we use cultural institutions to instill and enforce this ethic in human agents.

It is important to consider the important role of gene in determining which traits among different individuals, distinguish twins study as interpretation. This is a one of a kind study, a comparison between identical twins reared together who share family environment and genes and compared to fraternal twins reared together who also share family environment but only share half their genes.

By the time individual reaches adulthood, the impact of shared environment on personalities is weak, at best (Stangor 2010). It means although parents must provide a nourishing and stimulating environment for children, no matter how hard they try they are not likely to be able to turn their children into geniuses or into professional athletes, nor will they be able to turn them into criminals. Consequently, the influence of non-shared environment represents whatever is left over after removing the effects of genetics and parents make us different from the other, and often have the largest influence on personality.

Nurture assumes that correlations between environmental factors and psychological outcomes are caused environmentally. For example, how much parents read with their children and how well children learn to read appear to be related.

In addition, over the past two decades scientists have made substantial progress in understanding the important role of nature or nurture on forming identical personality. To summary this critical issue this can be concluded that the more we learn about human nature, the more it seems that both nature and nurture determine our potentials. We cannot separate them as pieces of jigsaw games, if nature is more important, then our personalities will form early in our lives and will be difficult to change later. If nurture is more important, however, then our experiences are likely to be particularly important, and we may be able to flexibly alter our personalities over time.


The nature-nurture debate is concerned with the relative contribution that both influences make to human behavior, such as personality, cognitive traits, temperament and psychopathology. It is indeed important to recognize that nature in the form of inherited traits does exist but a person’s overall behavior is influenced a great deal by nurture or upbringing and the environmental factors involved in this upbringing.



Hull, R. Bruce. (2015). “Infinite Nature”. The University of Chicago Press. 2006. Print. May 5.

Itzkovich, S. Judy. (2015). “Nature versus Nurture: Human personality”. Jerusalem Post. Aug, 4.2012. Web. May, 5.

McLeod SA (2017). Nature Nurture in Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html.

Stangor, G. (2010). “Introduction to Psychology”. San Diego State University. 5th Ed. International Thomson Publishing Inc. Print.

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