The debate about how we become who we are used to be framed in either/or terms: nature versus nurture. To take the side of nature was to argue that our personalities and behaviors are entirely the result of our genetic inheritance, already fixed in place when we’re born. To take the side of nurture was to argue that nothing of our personalities and behaviors is present at birth; we are totally at the effect of our environment, our relationships, and the myriad of influences we experience growing up.
Both extremes always seemed fairly hopeless to me, each in a different way. Fortunately, there are no longer many people arguing exclusively for either side. It’s pretty commonly accepted that who we are is a result of both nature and nurture.
They’re the opposite ends of a continuum, sort of like the male and female brain I wrote about in my previous post. I don’t know that a formula exists to say this percentage of me (or you) is a result of nature and this percentage is a result of nurture. We all come into the world with some attributes, characteristics, and preferences in place. Depending on what they are and how strong they are, they may even override some aspects of nurture. On the other hand, for someone who’s forced to deal with extremely difficult circumstances (physical, mental, or emotional) as they’re growing up, nurture could have a more powerful effect than it might on someone raised under more favorable conditions. Continue reading