Sequoit to Sequoit: Nature Versus Nurture

The nature versus nurture debate has raged on for centuries and forces the fundamental question: who are people meant to be?

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Nature

Outlooks, morals and mentalities can change depending on the circumstances one endures during their life, but genetics decide who someone will be long before they have the ability to decide for themselves. From the moment I was born, certain aspects of my life were already determined: my hair color, my height, my brain’s susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. I am who I am because my brain and my cells are programmed to behave in a distinct way. The way I look, my neurological capacity, and my sensitivity to diseases change the foundations of who I am. If any one of my genes was slightly different I would be a different person; being taller, smarter, less emotional, or even having different colored eyes would change the way I perceive everything.

Although nobody wants to admit it, physical characteristics change the experiences a person has. It can be as mediocre as not having to wax eyebrows more often to as life altering as facing bullying and discrimination. The majority of ways my life has been changed by my physical apperance have been positive: my skin isn’t prone to acne, my eyesight is perfect, and my hair grows quickly. But they’ve still changed my life.

Besides physical characteristics, genetics also determine emotional and mental capacity. According to Sky News, the five most prominent psychiatric disorders such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are traced directly to genetic factors. The DNA from patients who presented these disorders were studied and four genetic regions were pinpointed as potential causes. This data proves that some people are genetically predetermined to have psychiatric disorders. Nobody can change their genetics—no amount of positive thinking nor positive environments can change the way cells are programmed to work. Although not all disorders are directly linked to genetics, the ones that are proved to be have drastic effects on the patients.

Each patient’s genetic predisposition sets them up for very different emotional lives, but a few common symptoms of these disorders include: extreme mood changes, suicidal thoughts, inability to cope with daily problems and detachment for reality.  Experiencing any one of the aforementioned symptoms changes a person’s personality completely.

These hereditary genes don’t present in every patient and not all those with the DNA that causes these disorders suffers from the symptoms. However, the correlation between the patients and their genetics shows that people are predisposed to be the way that they are.

 

Nurture

Children rely on their guardians to learn how to do absolutely everything. If humans are coached from birth to mimic certain behaviors and avoid others, is there a point where the coaching has a bigger effect on the person? The “nurture” portion of this infamous debate refers to the encouragement and capability to adapt and learn from a person’s surroundings.

According to North Carolina State University, certain genetics are turned “on and off” based on a person’s environment. For example, people living in cities have an overactive immune system to protect them from the higher pollution levels. In other cases, children mimic the behaviors of parents or other family members.

From the day I was born, I was close with my mother. I relied on her and learned from her more than anyone else, including my father. I listened to everything she told me. But I would have become a completely different person if I had been closer to my father. He tends to be more introverted and does not have the best communication skills. Although I am a lot like him, the lessons my mother taught me shaped me into the person I am today.

Reinmar Hager and Jason Wolf from the Faculty of Life Sciences published a study in 2009 regarding the nature vs. nurture debate. The pair came to the conclusion that imprints from other people have more effects on another’s flexibility and adaptations. Children pick up habits and traits from those around them. My younger sister is often told by my past teachers that we have the same mannerisms, proving that she adapted from myself and even our mother.

Environmental factors can change genetic factors. Genetic factors that are susceptible to change from specific events cannot have more influence over a person than the factors that control them.  

“For example, mothers could pass on information to their offspring about the environment in which they will be growing up, such as availability of resources,” Hager said. “Thus, young may be better adapted to the environment when they know what to expect.”

The lessons our parents teach us are the bricks that build our character. Further, every person around us and every environment we encounter changes us in some way. The imprints left on us are stronger than our predisposed traits, proving that nurture is stronger than nature.

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