January 18th, 2007
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Categories: Nature vs. Nurture

nurtureI clearly remember attending a conference in the early 90’s, not long after Amy had joined our family. The nature vs. nurture debate was in full swing. I remember being told that nature was a powerful force… but I also remember thinking… “Yeh, but in MY family, we’ll be fine. I can shape and mold a child into a successful adult with enough love and structure…”

Bowlby and Ainsworth, two well known researchers on bonding and attachment, both recognized that babies were different from birth. Some were resilient and easy to care for, while others were difficult and challenging. But as Robert Karen, author of Becoming Attached; Unfolding the Mystery of the Infant-Mother Bond and Its Impact on Later Life, noted in Chapter 21, Renaissance of Biological Determinism; the Temperament Debate,

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…neither Bowlby nor Ainsworth believed that inborn traits accounted for all that much in the average child. They were thus unprepared for the surge in genetic research among psychologists in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the degree to which inherited qualities would be taken as fundamental in adult personalities.

Robert Karen tells the reader about University of Minnesota psychologist Thomas Bouchard, who, along with his co-workers, studied over 120 pairs of adult identical twins that were separated within a few months of birth. The researchers concluded…

…that individual qualities like imagination, leadership, curiosity, tolerance, sociability, alienation, and vulnerability to stress are all strongly heritable. Religiosity and traditionalism also seemed to have genetic links.

This chapter is fascinating, for it states that University of Wisconsin psychologist Richard Davidson found evidence that…

…people with greater activity in the right frontal cortex of the brain are prone to be gloomy, while those with more left frontal activity are prone to be cheerful.

WOW… I have one of each in my family!

The nature vs. nurture debate is very complicated. What is a trait? What is personality? What is temperament? Are variations that are observed in individuals at birth static, or can they be influenced by environment?

Stay tuned!

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