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The Ongoing Debate
The question of how nature versus nurture influences human development has been an ongoing debate for a very long time and at present there is no clear winner, as both nature (genes) and nurture (environmental factors) seem to play a vital and important role in human development.
Before this issue can be fully explained, it is important to understand what nature and nurture actually are. Nature can be loosely defined as genetic inheritance or the genetic makeup (the information encoded in your genes) which a person inherits from both parents at the time of conception and carries throughout life.
Several things in an individual are genetically inherited, ranging from gender, eye color, risks for certain diseases and exceptional talents to height. The concept of nature thus refers to biologically inherited tendencies and abilities that people have and which may get revealed later on as they grow up.
In contrast, nurture can be defined as the different environmental factors to which a person is subjected from birth to death.
Environmental factors involve many dimensions. They include both physical environments (a good example is prenatal nutrition) and social environments (such as the neighborhood, media and peer pressure.) Also, environmental factors have different levels of impact on human development as they involve multiple layers of action, ranging from most immediate (families, friends, and neighborhoods) to bigger societal contexts (school systems and local governments) as well as macro factors such as politics on the international level or say global warming. These layers are also impacted by other factors outside them. For example, teenagers are exposed to not just peer pressure from their peers but also to parental ideals, community standards or ethnic views.
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The Influences of Nature and Nuture on Human Development
Nature is responsible for the growth of a person from the fetus level until development into a normal adult. The genetic makeup of a human being is responsible for their sex, skin color, color of their eyes and hair as well as distinguishing features which are inherited.
Nature can only assist in the growth of a fetus into a normal well-developed adult who may have inherited some special talents. Thus it can be concluded that nature uses the genetic coding to help in physical development and does impart some positive or negative traits to an individual. However, it is nurture which can be utilized to improve positive traits and diminish the effect of negative traits in a child.
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. Several recent studies carried out on infant and child behavior have shown that there is significant evidence to support the fact that nurture strongly influences human development especially in the early years.
In traditional society most parents encourage their kids to take part in extracurricular activities like learning music, dance or sports in accordance with the child’s talents and interests. The talents have been given by nature but they can only be developed into skills through the hard work of nurture.
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Which Plays the Greater Role?
Undoubtedly, nurture plays a very big role in early human development. Nurture in some way or another speeds up an individual's capacity to study and learn new things. There is the common saying that “practice makes perfect." Therefore, an individual can improve knowledge by practicing to adapt to all creations in these circumstances or environment.
The part which nurture plays in human development has been demonstrated by psychologists in experiments in which stepping practice was administered to a cohort of inference for just a few minutes many times in a day. It was later that these children were able to walk several days earlier than infants who had not been given stepping practice (Zalazo, Zelazo & Kolb, 1972.)
In conclusion, it is evident that nature is responsible for producing healthy, well-developed babies. It is also nurture that plays an important role in the early stages of human development. Research has concluded beyond doubt that early human development is quicker and more focused due to nurture as it builds up on the talents provided by nature.
Nature is responsible for the normal development of the fetus into a normal and healthy infant, but it cannot entirely develop that fetus into an intelligent, knowledgeable or athletic adult. This is possible only through the exposure that nurture gives a person. Therefore, it would be correct to say that although the nature has some degree of influence, nurture strongly influences early human development.
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1) CollinsWA, Maccoby EE, Steinberg L, Hetherington ME, Bornstein MH. (2000). The case for nature and nurture. Am. Psychol. 55:218-232.
2) Ge X, Conger RD, Cadoret RJ, Neiderhiser JM, Yates W, et al. (1996). The developmental interface between nature and nurture: a mutual influence model of child antisocial behavior and parent behaviors. Development Psychology 32:574-589.
3) Plomin R, Reiss D, Hetherington EM, Howe GW. (1994). Nature and nurture: genetic contributions to measures of the family environment. Dev. Psychol. 30:32-43
4) Zelazo PR, Zelazo NA, Kolb S. (1972). Walking in the newborn. Science, 176:314-315.
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