Genetics and other biological factors (nature), together with the environment influence a child’s development (nurture). Although there is a passionate debate surrounding the issue of nature v nurture in child development, the two ideologies often complement each other. Nature refers to the abilities, behaviors, thought patterns, and emotions, among other factors that children inherit from their parents, or which are part of the human biology. Nurture includes external environmental factors that interact with nature and influence the development of a child. They can enhance or limit a child’s development. For instance, poor nutrition can limit a child’s growth while exposure to language can quicken the pace at which the child learns how to speak properly.
My parents tell me that as a child, I always seemed curious about different issues. I would look all around me, and follow people as they passed by me. When I learned to crawl, I would pick every item that I came along and I would hold on to it or put it in my mouth to know what it tasted like. They said that I developed the curiosity from my father, who is a doctor by profession. When I went to school, I learnt more about science, and I became more interested in finding out about different things. I was always curious to know why people behaved the way that they did. The school environment gave me the opportunities to exploit my curiosity. I read books that covered the topics I was interested in, and I was engaged in different experiments trying to find out whether the theories I had developed were true. I constantly asked teachers to explain different concepts and ideologies so that I could have a better and deeper perspective of the issues. Looking back at my life, I realize the importance of genetics and environmental influences in shaping people’s lives.
Nature and nurture are both important components of children’s development. Children are born with some traits, but they are able to develop them through different environmental influences. Nature is responsible for children’s growth, especially physical growth. However, it does determine some internal traits such as intelligence and manner of the child’s predisposition. Children develop up to a certain height, they have certain hair and eye color because of nature. However, nature only determines a child’s development up to a certain level. Without exposure to the right influences, the child will not get the chance to learn more about his or her traits, and will miss the chance of developing them. The chance I got in school and the encouragement I got from the teachers made it possible for me to develop my natural traits (Salkind, 2002).
Those who emphasize the influence of nurture in a child’s development advocate the idea that development is a gradual learning process. It is a continuous process, whereby a person learns and grows from simple ideas, to ideas that are more complex. Development happens gradually and is uninterrupted. Looking at my life, I can relate to this because, as a child I did not have the knowledge that I have now. The experiences I have had over the years have influenced my thought patterns. I developed in my level of curiosity; from eating everything I laid my hands on to get a feel of how they tasted, to more complex experiments that involved human behavior. The more experiences I gained, the more experiments I conducted, and the more I learned in the process.
The words I use now are not the same ones I used a child. I learned different and more difficult words as I heard other people speak, and as I learned to read different books. My life experiences support the idea of continuous development. It is possible to measure this kind of learning since it is quantitative. A child learns to speak one word and gradually develops to learning a few words. After some time, the child learns how to form sentences. Dr. Fred French conducted a study where he showed that the issue of child development is not a matter of nature or nurture, but it is more about the support offered to the children to ensure their development. In the research, he argues that factors such as cognitive abilities, family, the community, and schooling contribute to a child’s learning. The interaction between nature and nurture are fundamental in a child’s development (French, 2003)
Theorists who support the idea of nature’s influence over children’s development tend to support the idea of qualitative or discontinuous change in children. Such theorists are of the idea that there is a connection between a person’s biology, and his or her abilities. A person develops certain skills when he has matured up to a certain level. Discontinuous development refers to sudden changes in a child. Some children begin crawling or walking suddenly. The discontinuity model proposes that a person’s genetic programming determines his or her ability at a certain level. It is possible to see discontinuous development in areas such as art, where some children seem to exhibit a high degree of creativity. I have observed this with my niece, who despite her young age creates impressive art. She is able to develop impressive works of art for her young age, although she has not had any formal training.
French, F. (2003). Revisiting Nature vs. Nurture: Implications for the Teaching/Learning Process. Education Canada, 43 (2), 20-23
Salkind, N. J. (2002). Child development. New York: Macmillan Reference USA