I had a really interesting dinner conversation the other night. A friend asked me what ratio I would put on the old nature/nurture argument. Everyone chipped in their opinions, and it led to a very lively discussion. Even though the topic was the content of my masters thesis, I hadn’t thought about how I would rate each side’s importance in a child’s life. I quite quickly said 40%/60% nature to nurture. Even though how a child is born—whether shy or outgoing, aggressive or calm, introverted or extroverted, learning disabled, neurologically, physically or mentally challenged, gay or straight, etc., etc.—has all to do with how a person perceives the world. But how the world perceives him or her has all to do with how confident that person becomes. Someone born with musical talent for instance, will have way more of a struggle in life reaching his potential if his personal world devalues artistic achievement than one with support and encouragement. A child with ADHD will have a far easier time in life if her environment understands her innate tendencies and gives her appropriate structure in which to understand herself. One’s self-confidence is paramount in determining whether or not that person reaches potential. It is for this reason that I weigh in on the side of nurture.

6 thoughts on “Nature/Nurture

  1. I never tire of the nature/nurture discussion.

    What I will add is the fact that the latest research really says we must do away with the word “versus” in nature versus nurture; you did this, so I guess you got the memo! 🙂

    What appeals to me so much about losing the “versus” is that this speaks to the interaction between nature and nurture– that is, the child’s innate tendencies and his/her environment. There is a dynamic and reciprocal relationship between the two.

    As a learning specialist, I have come to really believe in the power of both variables and the interplay between them.

    Meredith Resnick (

    1. Meredith – Thanks for pointing out the reciprocity between nature and nurture. I actually did not get the memo! But I certainly agree that it is not one against the other but the AND rather than VERSUS. It’s often hard to pull them apart and I think when anyone tries to categorize in that way, it leads down the wrong road. A big danger is in looking at the nature of a child, the inborn temperament for instance, and throwing up your hands and saying, “Well that’s just the way she is, I can’t do anything about it.” Equally damaging is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
      Thanks for your feedback.

  2. Love what you said about the dangers of seeing nature as pre-determined fate and therefore just throwing up one’s arms…. so true!

    And I also loved the point about “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” That is sort of what I fear with labels in general (all kinds of labels from ADHD to mom!). Individual variation is part of ANY label. I based the development of my site Labels Not Limits ( upon this idea. And in some ways, my more personal blog on being a mother is also about labels and variation (what is a mother? what is a working mother? How should I feel as a mother? etc.)

    Nice blogging with you!

  3. Great post on a very fascinating topic, love it, will surely be back!!
    Many still not appreciating or knowing the benefits of using this subject properly.

  4. I think we can and need to go deeper than this. If we simply ‘take away the versus’ we still end up with separate processes. What makes sense to me theoretically and in parenting is our nurturing is nature and nature is nurturing – why the fuss about which one or in what degree? A child’s growth is such a dynamic, interrelated system of processes that getting stuck on two words making unnecessary distinctions seems unhelpful. To raise our children well and raise ourselves we desperately need to learn relational ways of knowing – if our knowing doesn’t help our relating than we need to move on from it, a continual process.

    1. Simon – I absolutely agree. Nothing in parenting is black and white. But the nature/nurture argument is such an old one and it does make an interesting topic of conversation.

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