Nature and Nurture

Nature refers to the traits and abilities that a child inherits from his/her parents at the moment of conception.  Things that children might inherit from their parents are curly or straight hair, height, blue or brown eyes, and athletic skills (Berger, 2018; Feldman, 2014). 

I have an issue with my knees where the patella, the kneecap, pops out of the socket.  It happened for the first time when I was seven and my leg turned blue from the knee down.  At the urgent care they popped it back in.  Every few years it will happen and I have to pop it back in.  It is incredibly painful.  A couple of years ago I got an X-ray and the doctor said that there was a huge gap structurally, which is a big part of why it pops out.  My Dad has bad knees too, so this gap is likely genetic, because of nature.  But I have learned in physical therapy that I can strengthen the muscles around the knee and that I can be careful with how I move my body, so that I don’t twist really fast and pop it out.  I have also lost weight, which puts less pressure on the knees.  These vulnerable knees are the hand that I was dealt genetically, but there are things that I can do in my environment to lessen the risk.  That brings us to nurture. 

Nurture has to do with the environmental factors that affect children after conception (Berger, 2018).  Examples of nurture include the mother’s nutrition while pregnant, the child’s foods at home, the quality of the teachers and schools, parenting and discipline techniques, how siblings treat the child, and any abuse or bullying the child experiences (Feldman, 2014).


The nature-nurture debate asks the question, how much of a certain behavior is the result of genes or experiences?  Most researchers now believe that both nature and nurture affect how children develop (Berger, 2018).  The range of our intellectual abilities tends to be inherited at birth, but whether or not children have good teachers, access to books, people who read to them when they are young, and an adult who encourages them to try hard at school all influence their intellectual development too (Berger, 2018; Feldman, 2014). 

Child aggression, childhood obesity, and adolescent depression and are all issues that are affected by both nature and nurture.  A child can have the gene to become obese, but whether his/her environment is filled with healthy or unhealthy foods, and the amount of exercise he/she experiences plays a huge role.  A person may be predisposed to develop a certain disease but because of healthy living and low stress, he/she may not develop it (Berger, 2018; Berk, 2013; Feldman, 2014).  How nature and nurture work together has to do with epigenetics. 

Epigenetics is the study of how environmental factors affect the expression of genes (Berger, 2018).  Genes affect prenatal brain development, but then so does what the mother eats, drinks, and any drugs she takes.  Abuse, neglect, isolation, and loneliness can all affect brain development (Berger, 2018).  For more information on epigenetics, please watch the following video.  



Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person: Through childhood and adolescence (11th ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Berk, L. E.  (2013). Child development (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Feldman, R. S. (2014). Child development: A topical approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.