The nature versus nurture debate has existed for decades aiming to determine what exactly it is that precludes, help predict, or create the nature of each individual. Is behavior caused by acquired, genetic and biological traits or is the environment responsible for affecting us to the point of creating our personality.
Nature versus nurture has been used from a number of different perspectives. For example, in the Criminal Justice field, forensic psychologists use their analytical skills from the nature versus nurture debate to try to define the behaviors of chronic criminals. What makes a serial killer so cold and detached? How does a regular man turn into a rapist? Is there such a thing as a "crime" gene within us? If so who carries it and who does not? It is precisely the question of nature versus nurture that has led forensic psychology researchers to study the brain, combining research from other fields such as psychology, neurology, sociology, and anthropology. This is the extent to which the debate is important as of today.
When the Human Genome project was completed, a shocking revelation was made. Humans have but 30,000 genes, which makes it very difficult to award heredity the full responsibility for the development of human personality. In the words of NOVA reporter Kevin Davies,
Everyone carries between five and 50 genetic glitches that might predispose that person to a serious physical or mental illness.
This information carries with it serious implications: it means that the continuum may remain so. Nature exists within all of us. We do inherit traits, and those traits are sometimes skipped or repeated, but never extinct, from generation to generation. That is a fact. If we have 50 possible genetic glitches, then the chances of these traits to become better or worse also run higher. It means that the variables are so big for each individual's make-up that basing the behavioral debate on nature alone would be as effective as playing the lottery to guess how someone is going to turn out.
As a result, we must use nurture to fill the genetic gap that is clearly left by the most recent research on human genetics. Nurture refers to the combination of environmental factors that play a role in the development of our personality. These factors include, but are not limited to
- parenting style of caretakers (as proposed by Sigmund Freud-1924, and Abraham Maslow-1954)
- safety of the home (Bronfenbrenner's Ecology of Human Development-1979)
- safety of the environment in which the child grows (abuse, crime, violence versus respect, discipline, peace)
- social and peer support
- the meeting of a hierarchy of physical, safety, and psychological needs (Maslow)
In order to best explain the continuum giving nature and nurture equal value is the following:
When we are born, theory states that we are an empty slate (John Locke) upon which life will write, leaving impressions and lessons behind which affect us for better or worse. Our natural tendency to respond to these life lessons and impressions may come back from generations of inherited traits. A gentle disposition, a tendency for positive thinking, or even bipolar tendencies, may all be biologically-based traits that could be made better or worse by the stimulation that occurs in the environment. Therefore, it is inevitable that nature and nurture (together) certainly complete the individual entirely.