This reflection paper provides a review of Nature versus Nurture argument and how it relates to personality development while taking a stance on one side of the debate in relation to a few mental health issues. Nature versus Nurture is truly an age-old debate given that this debate has been ongoing for decades. Is it Nature (genetic endowments) that determines who we truly are, or it is the handy work of nurture (environment)? Some researchers have brought up an argument suggesting that someone’s physical features could be identical to those of their parents like height from mother and hair color from father. One’s personality traits however, may not have come from mother or father only, but from the environment in which we live. Some literature has revealed that the environment in which we are has a huge influence on our personality traits (Sarah, 2012).
Looking at the various approaches to personality, one would be tempted to conclude that both nature and nurture play a big role in shaping who we eventually become. The psychoanalytic approach and genetic approach to personality for instance indicates that these theorists argued in favor of genes in shaping our personality. Whereas Cognitive, humanistic and behavioral approaches focused on environmental factors in shaping our personalities. This paper will evaluate this argument in detail and then determine whether nature plays a bigger role in shaping our personality or nurture does.
II. Review of Nature
Genetic endowments or the biological factors found in every human being is referred to at Nature. Everyone is born with a particular gene and these genes cannot be altered as they are determinants of who we are. Raymond Cattell analyzed that with some personality traits, genetics play a major role. According to Cattell’s data 80% of intelligence and 80% of timidity can be accounted for by nature. He concluded that one-third of our personality is based on the gene, while two-thirds is based on social and environmental factors (Schultz ; Schultz, 2017). The case of Huntington’s disease would be a good support to this theory. Huntington’s disease is a rare disease and its basis is simply genetical (Pinel, 2018). Studies have shown that Huntington’s Disease is inherited from one generation to the other by a single mutated dominant gene called Huntingtin (Milnerwood & Raymond, 2010). Since this gene is dominant, everyone carrying the gene eventually develops the diseases as well as about half their offspring. Personality traits of people with Huntington’s disease change dramatically. Interest in normal activities fade away as they turn to be socially withdrawn. Some people with Huntington’s turn to be aggressive. Genes play a big role here as these personalities traits are a direct result of nature and not influenced by the environment in which we live.
A study on the Genetics of Bipolar disorder found that heritability of bipolar disorder based on twin studies is about 60% – 80% (Berit, 2014). In the case of identical twins, if one develops Bipolar 1 for instance, the other have 40% chances of getting it, unlike fraternal twins which is just 5%. Children have 10% – 15 % chances of inheriting Bipolar form a parent and 30% – 40% chances if both parents have it. People suffering from Bipolar 1 are most likely to get depression, thus shaping their personality. Although it is said that stress can be a contributing factor to Bipolar, the gene play a very crucial role when it comes to transmission of the diseases, substantiating the fact that nature has an upper hand and not nurture.
The development of personalities is part of the nature versus nurture debate. The case of LGBTQ brings us to the argument that these people were born with the gene of a gay or bisexual for instance. Julie (2013) found that about 10% of humans are born gay, with some only realizing later in life that they are. This takes me to the case of Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Marie Jenner who came out as guy after having lived with women and had many children. He claimed he had always felt he was in the wrong body. Of this 10%, some choose to hide their sexuality because of fear and shame (Julie, 2013). In a place like Zimbabwe where formal president Robert Mugabe promised to kill all guys for instance, I assume the LGBTQ population in this area would live in the closet for fear of been executed. On the other hand, Julie argued that our sexual preferences are a combination of environmental factors such as peer pressure, circumstances and in some cases, opportunity. People in areas with nontraditional gender preferences experience high levels of stress and anxiety disorder.
Genetic endowments play a very big role in the etiology of mental issues. Family history is a huge factor to Alzheimer’s Disease. There is a major genetic component that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease (Pinel, 2017). With a family history of Alzheimer’s, chances of getting the disease doubles if one can reach old age (Chouraki ; Salecki, 2014). Although age and genes are considered a huge contributor to Alzheimer’s disease, environmental factors such as lifestyle and wellness cannot be ruled out. During early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, personality changes can lead to behavioral changes.
A study conducted by Macrina (2015), found that personality traits in an autistic patient are influenced more by the genes than the environment in which we live (Macrina, 2015). Some people on the other hand think that, anti-social behaviors linked to mental illnesses such as autism spectrum disorder is highly linked to environmental factors. A friend of mine whose daughter is autistic strongly believes that the environment alone is the cause of her daughter’s illness. She believes she gave birth to a healthy child, but that nurture destroyed her pretty baby. Other people I have had a talk with regarding autism spectrum disorder thinks that when a mother is not warm enough towards her child, this could lead to an onset of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Nature plays a big role when it comes to alcoholism. It is estimated that children from alcoholic parents are 3 – 4 times more likely to suffer from alcoholism at some point in their lives. My father is an alcoholic, and so are all three of his brothers and two of his sisters. Could this be a coincidence, nature taking its course or a result of the social and environmental factors? I do not think so. I did a bit of research on family history and found out that both my grandmother and grandfather used to drink heavily. Having all their children drink this much is clearly a genetic issue. Although there is little or no check on alcohol consumption in my country of origin which make it easy for people to drink as they like, the case of my family is different given that there is a history of alcoholism in the family. It is true that a lot of influence can come from the environment, like peer pressure, but with the case of my family and many other alcoholics I have come across, I would say the role of nature is a great contributor
III. Review of Nurture
According to a study conducted at the University of Exeter (2013), researchers argued that personality is not nature (genetics) alone, nurture (environmental forces) play a very big role in shaping our personalities. Environmental factors play a huge role in personality development than the genes we inherit from our parents. When I look at two of my friend’s kids, I can say that the environment has a say when it comes to our personalities. Both kids were very calm and loved sharing everything they had with people, this is part of nature as both parents are very calm people (extroverted scores are low in parents). By nature, I could score these kids on some of the personality traits on the Big Five Personality Assessment as follows; Extroversion – low, Agreeableness – high, and Neuroticism – low. However, one of the kid was sent to live with the auntie for about 2 years as mother was in school. The child who stayed with mum maintained her personality while the child who stayed with auntie came back so different. She became very aggressive and was later diagnosed with ADHD. Environmental forces are accountable for a change in this kid’s personality. A research carried out at the University of Exeter supports the view that adoptive parents have a huge impact on the personality of their adopted children. This research found that other than the genes we inherit, other factors have an influence on our personalities. They argued that foster parents had a lot of influence on the personalities of their adopted children than the genes these children inherited from their biological parents (University of Exeter, 2013). We can see that although the genes are still present, environmental factors cannot be ruled out.
Psychologist have found that social media has a very huge influence on personality. The use of social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, can help shape and reflect our personality (Schultz, & Schultz). Research has shown that too much time spent on the internet can lead to significant levels of depression and anxiety disorders (Lam, & Peng, 2010). Literature has revealed that too much use of social media can reduce psychological well-being and of course reduce quality of. Students who kept communication with parents strictly through social media reported greater levels of anxiety and conflicting relationship with their parents. A lot of time spent online could result to both alcohol and drug addiction as well as depression (Mosher, 2011).
Bressert (2018) in a study on the causes of Schizophrenia found that exposure to viral infections before birth could increase chances of developing schizophrenia later in life (Bressert, 2018). Not receiving proper nutrition from mom during pregnancy especially during the first six months could be linked to this assertion. Taking mind altering drugs such as methamphetamines exposes one’s vulnerability to developing schizophrenia. Marijuana has a similar link and the younger you start and the more often you take it you are more likely to develop symptoms like hallucination, delusions and inappropriate emotions. On the other hand, it is believed that if there is someone in your family with schizophrenia, chances that you might get it are high by 10% if it is your direct brother or sister or a parent and 40% if it is both parents (Simon, 2014). There are some cases where people have schizophrenia with no history of it in the family, clearly showing that it is not just nature, but nurture has a huge impact.
IV. Nurture has a hug impact on personality than Nature
Albert Bandura in his social learning theory said that people learn new behaviours from the environment by observing others. According to this theory, nurture plays a bigger role in shaping our personality than nature does. He agreed with learning theories of classical conditioning (learning a new behaviour through association) and operant conditioning (where learning occurred through rewards and punishment). People especially children have models whose behaviors they observe, and this helps shape their own behavior and personality (McLeod, 2016). As children grow up, they surround themselves with influential models such as parents, friends at school, teachers and even characters on TV. One of my kid adores Pepper Pig while the other loves Pepper’s baby brother George. Most of the time, they love behaving exactly like Pepper and George. When I am making pancakes they always ask me to flip it just like Mummy Pig does and they always say when they will have a baby sister, they will name her Pepper Pig. This just goes a long way to confirm how the environment can be a huge influence on our personality. When my older son used to go to daycare, the influence his teacher had on him was so remarkable. whenever I said something to him contrary to what the teacher told him, we would literally have a fight. Elson and Ferguson (2014), found that if a child is exposed to a lot of violent videos on television, this would lead to aggressive behavior later in life and this has been the case of ADHD in children (Elson, & Ferguson, 2014).
Culture plays a very significant role in shaping our personality. Research revealed that Chinese who immigrated to Canada recently had same low level of introversion as the Chinese in Hong Kong who did not immigrate. Chinese immigrants who have been in Canada for over 10 years with great exposure to western culture scored high on extraversion. Cultural forces had a great impact on personality development (Schultz, & Schultz). Social emotions and anxiety can be linked to cultural differences. A study carried out on Asian-American Students and European-American students found that Asian-American scored high on negative emotions than European-Americans. Western people in general have a more positive view of themselves and their future.
According to Alfred Adler, neglected children developed feelings of worthlessness. Depression is linked to parenting styles as kids whose parents were hostile, rejecting and detached from them developed depression at some point (Schultz, & Schultz). Another study indicates that neglected children experience more depression, shame, symptoms of PTSD and do not socialize much as compare to children who didn’t experience neglect (Bennett, Sullivan, ; Lewis, 2010). In China, neglected Children and adolescence have greater chances of developing anxiety (Guan, Deng, ; Luo, 2010) and are prone to acts of violence and excessive alcohol later in life (widom et al., 2013). People who score high on social interest or activities will experience far less depression or anxiety issues in the future, thus environmental forces, not biological has a greater influence on personality.
Another factor to the nature versus nurture debate is race and ethnicity. People in multicultural environments with a strong sense of ethnic identity always rate high in psychological wellbeing than those who identify less with their ethnic backgrounds (Le, Lai, ; Wallen, 2009). A study conducted on African-American college students found that those who identified with and was accepted by the black community reported high levels of psychological wellbeing than those who felt less accepted by fellow African American (Postmes, ; Branscombe, 2002). Adult African-Americans who experienced discrimination reported lower levels when asked to rate life satisfaction than those who did not experience discrimination. Those who went to all white schools reported higher levels than those who went to all black school (Broman, 1997). Another study reported lower levels for African-Americans who went through the stresses of racial discrimination (Utsey et al., 2002). This consequently led to depression and consequently suicide. All of this has an impact on our personality.
Where you live in terms of geographical location is another facture that can affect personality. Life satisfaction of those living in affluent area is always higher than those in non-affluent areas (Gerstorf et al., 2010). People who live in low affluent area always score high on depression. I have many friends who prefer living in Stockholm Sweden despite the high cost of living there as compared to smaller cities like Kiruna. The reason most of them give is that they feel depressed in those smaller cities and would prefer Stockholm because there is a bit of life there.
When it comes to the Nature versus Nurture debate many people view it form various angles. While some people belief that nature has a greater influence on our personality, others belief nurture shapes us better and some argue that both play a significant role in shaping our personality. Putting all these together, I stand for the fact that nurture has an upper hand as discussed in the above paper. Personality is not a fixed. Circumstances, the people in our lives and the environment in which we find ourselves daily helps in shaping our personality traits. Of course, not all personality traits are altered as there some traits in us that do not change. If the genes alone could determine who we are then everyone would be aware of his/her future just by looking at the family tree. In a nutshell, our personality traits are more of an environmental product than our genes.