In order to determine which elements of a child’s behavior are the product of environmental factors and which are attributable to genetics it is essential to have information on the child’s parents’ medical histories, on the child’s emotional history, and on the family’s situation with respect to social, marital and financial stability, as well as other relevant factors. What is known with absolute certainty, though, is that both physiological and environmental factors influence a child’s behavior.
Very often, children with unruly, socially disruptive behavior are acting out in response to environmental factors affecting their family. Children of mothers suffering from clinical depression, for instance, and children of parents with a dysfunctional marriage – possibly involving divorce or physical and/or emotional abuse – will frequently respond to these issues by exhibiting disruptive behavior, often in an effort at attracting attention to him- or herself. The emotional trauma children of all ages can experience from a dysfunctional environment at home cannot be overestimated. For children with underlying physiological conditions, especially those on the “autism spectrum,” the combination of physiological (nature) and environmental (nuture) factors can result in a truly difficult situation for the child, for his or her family, and for his or her teacher.
On the more positive side of the discussion, a particularly nurturing environment can prove highly beneficial children with severe physiological conditions. While caring for a child with extreme autism is a challenge for even the most loving and nurturing of families, such a child stands a far better chance of functioning at some level with such a family than with a family that lacks, for whatever reason, the capacity or will to provide adequate for the child. Absent severe physiological conditions, however, environmental factors can be very determinative of a child’s behavioral development. A child who enjoys the benefit of a nurturing environment will almost always fare better than those children who are deprived of an emotionally healthy atmosphere in which to grow. A child growing up in a loving environment will generally exhibit far better behavior at home, in school, and in other public arenas. He or she will be attentive in the classroom, and will demonstrate superior social skills. Basically, the child who sits quietly and attentively in class is more likely to be the product of a stable and loving home than the child who is inattentive and acts out in an effort at attracting attention. And for such children, even negative attention is better than no attention at all.