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partyrock's avatar

Can someone explain nature vs nurture? Have scientists figured this out?

Asked by partyrock (3865 points ) January 30th, 2012

What is the difference between two people who go through a very bad childhood? How does one person end up becoming a serial killer, and the other coming out of it ok ? What is the difference where one person comes out of it alright, and the other person gets so consumed with anger/hate/violence, etc ?

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9 Answers

gambitking's avatar

I once asked a friend what would happen if you kept a creature in a box all its life with only a hole to breathe through and get food and water through, what would happen in its adulthood.

He said “it would eventually screw the hole”.

Nature vs Nurture answered

augustlan's avatar

As a person who survived a horrific childhood but came out ok, I honestly don’t know why I did and others don’t. (By “ok” I mean: I had tons of issues because of it, but I didn’t grow up to be a serial killer or child molester.)

Part of it, I believe, is a matter of inborn personality. Some people are just better able to withstand trauma than others, right from the get-go.

Blackberry's avatar

I’ll answer as best I can, but this is only an educated guess. The amount of possibilities and outcomes that can happen during the creation of a human are pretty much impossible to quantify.

I’m sure you know it’s not “versus”, but combinations. The brain’s physiology is so fragile it’s scary. Not much is known about the formation of the body and brain during embryology, but it is definitely an imperfect process: imagine all of those billions of neurons and trillions of synapses being formed in our brains. There are and always will be mistakes.

Like building a computer or something: the smallest change can make a difference of who knows what while we’re developing in the womb: what if the mother drinks or smokes? What if she has excellent nutrition? What types of genes are we looking at?

When the child is being raised is the same thing. The how, what, whens, whys, and wheres are too much too take into account, but we also have learned a lot and will continue to learn a lot. For example, when a woman smokes during pregnancy, nicotine can actually concentrate itself in the placenta. Random things like that can make a big different in a child’s development.

I don’t know what is known about serial killers and people with mental disorders versus people that don’t have them, and I imagine it’s just as difficult to really pinpoint an exact answer, but as long as we follow the basic things we learn about raising kids to adults there’s not much we can do besides that.

augustlan's avatar

Another part of my own recovery is the fact that I sought therapy. Being willing to admit you need help goes a long way, I think.

ninjacolin's avatar

My opinion on the matter is that Nurture is our Nature in all cases.

That is to say, that nothing that makes up the person who is me was anyhow my own fault, rather, I was sculpted out of matter starting with my parents’ DNA at conception, my parents’ language after birth, my teachers’ english, math, and geology lessons in school, and my other peers’ and available media influence the rest of my life.

Nothing about me is natural except the fact that I’m a Nurtured product.

So, when one person ends up a serial killer and another coming from a similar situation does not, it suggests to me that their situations were only similar.. but clearly not exact. The difference could be in the genes or it could be in the context of the social upbringing.

Either way, it’s as natural as can be. It just really sucks sometimes.

whitenoise's avatar

This debate will always continue, but there is some great research being done, primarily through research on pairs of identical twins. These share the same genetic mock-up and also had virtual identical situations in the womb as foetusses.

Especially when these twins grow up seperated, they provide interesting information.

There is research, for instance, that shows that identical twins that grow up separately from each other, share more of certain personality traits than those that grow up together.

ETpro's avatar

Great question. I don’t have any formal education in human mental development. My major was chemistry, and brain chemistry was never even mentioned except when one of my professors was berating a particularly bad paper I had handed in.

But the subject fascinates me, so I have done a fair amount of reading about it, both in books that deal solely with subject, and in science news journals with articles covering it. As far as I know, the honest answer is we don’t yet know. I think that the science at least bears out @Blackberry comment that it’s not as simple as A or B. Both Nature and Nurture have an impact on the developing brain of a child. Just how they intertwine to shape outcomes is a Gordian knot of incredible complexity., It will likely be some time yet before we get it all mapped out. It isn’t a sort of study that lends itself to isolated testing of individual variables in a laboratory setting.

There is a saying, ”What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Maybe it’s no more complex that some people get that from the time they are tiny tots, and some never catch on. Thankn be that our own @augustlan is one of those who innately knew if they hung on, this too shall pass.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Walking the dog, Pitch, just ten minutes ago, at 11:30pm, we came across a bush that Pitch wanted to sniff. The bush chirped, then rustled as a mother bird flew away. I immediately thought she was fleeing, with a fight or flight mentality.

But she landed in another bush twenty feet away and began chirping madly. She wasn’t trying to hide. She demanded our attention. She chirped and chottelled, making all sorts of noise to divert attention away from the home bush.

Nature wouldn’t allow for this were it not for a nest of young she was attempting to protect.

mattbrowne's avatar

It depends on the trait. And scientists have figured out a lot using identical twins raised apart.

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