Nature vs. Nurture
The route through childhood is shaped by many forces, and it differs for each of us. Our biological inheritance, the temperament with which we are born, the care we receive, our family relationships, the place where we grow up, the schools we attend, the culture in which we participate, and the historical period in which we live: all these affect the paths we take through childhood and condition the remainder of our lives.–Robert H. Wozniak
I may have my mother’s face and my father’s height yet I stand as a diverse individual different from them in a myriad of aspects. I, for example, don’t seem to share my father’s passion for World History or my mother’s expertise in cooking. In fact, my interests are at complete polar opposites to those of my parents ranging from music to public speaking and even gaming. This is where the infamous Nature v/s Nurture debate comes in to focus.
Referring to this topic through an anthropological perspective, we find that opposing views exist originating from Margaret Mead’s studies and those of Derek Freeman. The former presented the view that it is ‘not in our genes but in our culture’ through which an individual’s personality is determined, i.e. she supported nurture and not nature. Freeman, however, was of the opinion that nature has a significant role to play as well and not just nurture.
Personally I am of the opinion that it is nurture above nature that determines what an individual will turn out to be like. In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear stories of a child being raised in an abusive, violent household yet the child still grows up to become a strong and educated person that stands against everything that one or both of his parents represented. To put it simply, a rapist’s child will not necessarily choose the same path as that of his parent nor is there any guarantee that the son of an influential, humanitarian leader will grow up to be just as admirable.
In this assignment we will discuss the nature-nurture debate in relation to the language development of an individual. It will include a variety of different language theorists such as; Noam Chomsky (1951), Steven Pinker (1994) and B.F. Skinner (1957). We will discuss who they were and what their theories were, and also we will discuss a twin study in language development. Determinism/Choice and ...
Let’s suppose two brothers who happen to be identical twins were separated at birth and raised in two completely different environments. One grows up in an education based, wealthy and thoroughly privileged environment and the other is raised in a poverty ridden surrounding where crime reigns supreme. It is likely that both brothers will possess very different personality traits based solely on their experiences and the culture within which they grew up.
The above statements bring us back to the main question that is are we who we are because it is in our genes or is it our experience that shapes who we are? Although the views that I have presented above prove that I support Mead’s theory, the fact remains that the role of nature can not entirely be ignored as well. There is a very narrow line that distinguishes what characteristic of an individual can be attributed to nature or nurture. I may be a soft spoken, warm and kind person because both my parents possess these traits too but at the same time, since they hold such traits they inadvertently practiced them and through their actions taught them to me. This means I was culturally taught to be this way through experience and this is exactly what nurture entails.
Hence, neither of Mead’s or Freeman’s theories can be completely rejected. It has to be taken in to consideration that there was a noticeable gap between the time that both these anthropologists carried out their studies and the varying length of time they spent in Samoa itself was the reason why differences in theories were so evident.