The Nature vs. Nurture debate is all about the effect of nature and nurture on human behaviour. Nature is the influence of genes on human traits, while nurture refers to the effect of external environmental factors on human behavior. The debate originated from the theories proposed by Sir Francis Galton in 1869 and is still a major topic of interest among psychologists. One of the most interesting aspects of the theory is the influence of nature and nurture on mental health.
What is Nature vs. Nurture
“In the real world, there is no nature vs. nurture argument, only an infinitely complex and moment-by-moment interaction between genetic and environmental effects.”
― Gabor Mate
Human traits are diverse and so are the sources of those traits. The two extreme stands considered genuine by some are:
- Nativism: Also known as the “extreme nature position”, it says that all the characteristics of human beings are the result of evolution only.
- Empiricism: Also known as the “extreme nurture position”, it says that all the characteristics of human beings are determined by the environment and are a result of learning.
Some traits of humans like Skin Colour, Height, and some diseases like Sickle Cell Anaemia and Cystic Fibrosis are genetically determined and are inherited from the parents. While other traits like some behaviour patterns are determined by our environment. So, it can be said that it is not only nature or not only nurture that determines the overall traits of a human being.
What affects Mental Health?
In reality, just like any other trait and physical health, both nature and nurture can affect mental health of a person. Hence, the debate of nature vs. nurture still continues. The question though, is how it affects our mental health.
Due to the complex nature of mental disorders, it has been difficult to mark out the exact gene that is responsible for a specific disorder or any environmental condition that can be said to develop a specific disorder always. Individual genes and environmental factors only have influence in combination with other genes and environmental factors. So, the question stops being about nature vs. nurture. It rather becomes, how do these genes combine to affect our mental health.
How do Nature and Nurture affect Mental Health?
When we ignore the interaction between genes and environment, we actually obscure the real reason for the development of a certain mental disorder and hence, corrupt the treatment.
For example, depression can have both nature and nurture playing part in its development. A person may develop depression even if there is no history of depression in the family after a traumatic event. But, people with a genetic history of depression in the family are more susceptible to develop it.
The same is the case with Schizophrenia. It too, is known to develop as a result of a combination of nature and nurture.
“You inherit your environment as much as your genes.”
― Johny Rich
The nature vs. nurture debate is an ongoing one. Scientists are still researching in the field. New observations are made everyday. New questions arise everyday. But one thing is for certain. While in many other cases, the debate may be nature vs. nurture, in case of mental health, it is nature and nurture.
If you have any information, any facts to share with us regarding the nature vs. nurture debate and its effect on mental health, drop in the comment section below.