Does nurture affect personality development? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does nurture affect personality development?” and explore the concepts of personality, nurture and nature and the effect of various factors on personality development to help understand the answer. 

Does nurture affect personality development?

Yes, nurture affects personality development. Following are 3 insights into how nurture affects personality development – 

  • Empiricism (Extreme Nurture Position).
  • Nativism (Extreme Nature Position).
  • Nature and Nurture together.

These 3 insights into how nurture affects personality development will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at personality and its characteristics. 

What is Personality?

Individual variances in thinking, feeling, and acting patterns are referred to as personality. Understanding individual variances in certain personality qualities, such as friendliness or irritability, is one of the main goals of personality research. 

The other is comprehending how a person’s diverse pieces come together as a whole. The word personality comes from the Latin word persona, which refers to a theatrical mask worn by actors to present multiple parts or conceal their true identity.

At its most fundamental level, personality refers to a person’s distinctive patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Personality is said to emerge from within an individual and to be pretty consistent throughout life.

While there are several definitions of personality, the majority of them focus on a pattern of actions and features that may be used to predict and explain a person’s behaviour.

Personality may be explained through a range of factors, ranging from genetic explanations for personality traits to the impact of environment and experience in creating an individual’s personality.

Characteristics of Personality

The following core personality qualities, as well as traits and patterns of thinking and emotion, have a crucial role –

  • Behaviours have an identifiable order and regularity to them. People, in general, behave in the same or similar ways in a range of settings.
  • Personality is a psychological construct, but research reveals that biological processes and requirements can impact it.
  • Personality impacts not just how we move and respond in our surroundings, but it also drives us to behave in specific ways.
  • Personality is expressed in a variety of ways, not simply via conduct. It shows up in our thoughts, feelings, personal relationships, and other social interactions as well.

What are these 3 insights into how nurture affects personality development?

Empiricism (Extreme Nurture Position).

Environmentalists, sometimes known as empiricists, believe that the human mind is a tabula rasa (a blank slate) when it is born and that it is progressively “filled” as a consequence of experience (e.g., Behaviorism).

Psychological features and behavioural variations that arise during childhood and adolescence are, in this perspective, the product of learning. 

The psychologically essential components of child development are governed by how you are raised (nurture), whereas the biological idea of maturation pertains primarily to biology.

Aggression is learnt from the environment through observation and imitation, according to Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory. This is demonstrated in his well-known Bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961).

Skinner (1957) also felt that language is learned through behaviour-shaping strategies from other people. Childhood circumstances, according to Sigmund Freud (1905), have a significant impact on our adult life, moulding our personalities. 

He believed that parenting is the most significant characteristic of nurture for a child’s growth and that the family is the most important component of nurture was a prevalent concept in twentieth-century psychology (which was dominated by environmentalists theories).

According to new research on zebra finches, personality is not transmitted from birth parents. According to the study, external influences, such as upbringing, are more likely to have a role in shaping an individual’s personality than the DNA it inherited from its parents.

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Hamburg looked at how personality is passed down through generations. Foster parents have a higher effect on the personality of fostered children than genes acquired from birth parents, according to the researchers.

Non-genetically transmitted behaviour can be passed down from parents to offspring. Personality qualities in zebra finches can be passed down through generations through behaviour rather than genetics, according to the study.

The findings of this study suggest that non-genetic transmission of behaviour can have a significant impact on animal personality development. This research will be expanded upon in future studies to see how common behavioural inheritance is for personality characteristics in other animals.

Nativism (Extreme Nature Position).

Certain physical traits are physiologically determined by genetic heredity, as has long been recognised. The genes we inherit determine the colour of our eyes, straight or curly hair, skin pigmentation, and some disorders (such as Huntingdon’s chorea).

Many people have speculated that psychological features including behavioural inclinations, personality traits, and mental talents are also “wired in” before we are born, based on these findings.

Nativists are those who have an extreme hereditary viewpoint. Their main premise is that the human species’ qualities as a whole are the result of evolution, while individual variances are attributable to each person’s unique genetic code.

In general, the sooner a skill emerges, the more likely it is influenced by hereditary factors. Heritability refers to estimates of a genetic effect.

Chomsky (1965), who suggested that language is acquired by the use of an intrinsic language acquisition apparatus, is an example of an extreme nature viewpoint in psychology. Freud’s view of violence as an underlying urge is another example of nature (called Thanatos).

Characteristics and distinctions that are not visible at birth but become apparent later in life are thought to be the result of maturation. That is to say, we all have an internal “biological clock” that pre-programmed turns on (or off) certain behaviours.

The body changes that occur during puberty in early adolescence are a typical illustration of how this influences our physical development. 

Nativists, on the other hand, maintain that maturation is responsible for the formation of connections in infancy, language acquisition, and even overall cognitive development.

Behavioural geneticists investigate behaviour variation as it is influenced by genes, which are the units of heredity handed down from parents to children.

Psychology has been able to measure the relative contributions of nature and nurture to various psychological characteristics thanks to behavioural genetics.

Environmental variables produce links between environmental elements and psychological results, according to to nurture. 

For instance, it appears that how much parents read with their children and how well children learn to read are linked. Environmental stress and its impact on depression are two further examples.

Behavioural genetics, on the other hand, contends that what appear to be environmental influences are, in great part, a reflection of genetic variations (Plomin & Bergeman, 1991).

People choose, change, and create settings that are relevant to their genetic makeup. This indicates that what appears to be an environmental (nurture) impact is actually a genetic influence (nature).

As a result, children who are genetically predisposed to be good readers will like listening to their parents read stories to them and will be more willing to promote this engagement.

Biologists have shown that genes cannot impact development without the assistance of environmental variables; genetic and nongenetic factors always work together to create characteristics. Nature and culture interact in a variety of qualitatively diverse ways in reality (Gottlieb, 2007; Johnston & Edwards, 2002).

Most psychology academics are now interested in researching how nature and nurture interact, rather than supporting extreme nativist or nurturist beliefs.

For example, in psychopathology, this means that for a mental condition to emerge, both a genetic predisposition and an adequate environmental trigger are necessary. Similarly, epigenetics asserts that environmental factors alter gene expression.

Nature and Nurture together.

The nature vs. nurture argument concerns the extent to which some characteristics of behaviour are influenced by inherited (i.e. genetic) or acquired (i.e. taught) factors. Nature is what we call “pre-wiring,” and it is impacted by genetics and other biological variables.

Nurture is commonly defined as the impact of external variables on an individual after conception, such as the product of exposure, life events, and learning.

Psychology has been able to measure the relative contributions of nature and nurture to various psychological characteristics thanks to behavioural genetics.

Most psychology researchers are now interested in researching how nature and nurture interact in a variety of qualitatively distinct ways, rather than advocating extreme nativist or nurturist ideas. 

Epigenetics, for example, is a new field of study that investigates how environmental factors regulate gene expression.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does nurture affect personality development?” and reviewed the concepts of personality, nurture and nature and the effect of various factors on personality development to help determine if nurture affects personality development. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

University of Exeter. Personality is the result of nurture, not nature, suggests study on birds. ScienceDaily. (2013, June 5). Retrieved from  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605090524.htm#:~:text=Researchers%20at%20the%20University%20of,genes%20inherited%20from%20birth%20parents.

Harper, H. Nature vs nurture: how does our personality develop? (2019, March 29). Retrieved from  https://www.workstyle.io/how-personality-develops

INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY – 1ST CANADIAN EDITION. BCcampus. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontopsychology/chapter/11-3-is-personality-more-nature-or-more-nurture-behavioral-and-molecular-genetics/

Cherry, K. The Age Old Debate of Nature vs. Nurture. (2020, June 3). Retrieved from  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-nature-versus-nurture-2795392

Dimitriu, A. Does Nature or Nurture Determine Your Personality? (2021, June 10). Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/psychiatry-and-sleep/202106/does-nature-or-nurture-determine-your-personality

McLeod, S. Nature vs. Nurture in Psychology. (2018). Retrieved from  https://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

Nature vs. Nurture Child Development: Exploring Key Differences. Maryville.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://online.maryville.edu/blog/nature-vs-nurture-child-development/

Kandler, C. Nature and Nurture in Personality Development: The Case of Neuroticism and Extraversion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(5), 290–296. (2012). Retrieved from  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0963721412452557

Personality is the result of nurture, not nature, suggests new study on birds.

University of Exeter. (2013, June 4).  Retrieved from  https://phys.org/news/2013-06-personality-result-nurture-nature-birds.html

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