Nature and Nurture: Impact on Development and Physical or Mental Health
Nature and Nurture: Impact on Development and Physical or Mental Health
The conversation of nature versus nurture explores the role of genetics versus environmental factors in human development. Notably, these two main factors also impact an individual’s mental and physical health. Nature focuses on the impact of one’s genes or genetics on physical and psychological development, whereas nurture focuses on external factors, such as experiences or trauma, that shape one’s story. Even though both are regarded to work exclusively often, the two elements can intersect to cause an impact on the development or health of an individual.
Proponents of a fixed and absolute definition would assert that nature and nurture are mutually exclusive and do not overlap each other in influencing the development of physical and mental health. They stick by the firm perspective that nurture only affects individuals’ development through external variables and cannot be genetically passed. For instance, a traumatic experience would only affect the health and nature of a single individual and, as a result, cannot be transmitted genetically. On the other hand, nature composes innate factors embedded in one’s genes and will affect an individual regardless of where they are born or raised. Therefore, it does not rely on one’s environment and remains constant regardless of the circumstances or experiences a person may face.
However, it is essential to note that there is strong evidence and reason to believe that nature and nurture are not mutually exclusive but intersect to form or alter genetic traits. Some experiences can be so profound that they can be embedded deep in one’s DNA to a level they pass down to their offspring. This assertion is reasonable because it argues that genes are not permanent markers that are immutable regardless of the experiences one may face. Moalem states that our genetic inheritance is always fluid rather than immutable. Environmental factors and experiences such as trauma have the possibility of altering a person’s genes inherently so that their traits would be noticeable even in their offspring. Psychological trauma can impact an individual’s biology and even trigger biological and behavioral consequences on the offspring of the exposed individual.
Nature and nurture work concertedly in developing an individual’s interaction with the environment. They cross each other’s realms in shaping a person’s development and psychological being. Stillman’s article, “Hiroshima and the Inheritance of Trauma,” delivers insights into how the effects of trauma on a woman, Tomiko Shoji, who survived the Hiroshima bombing, affected her to the point where she passed the gene traits to her daughter. The latter was not yet born at the time of the bombing. Stillman establishes that trauma can be a hereditary disease and can be passed down to one’s posterity. This is nurture as an experience crossing over the realm of nature as genetics. Notably, even her granddaughter experiences trauma 70 years later, yet she was born and raised in the United States (Stillman). Stillman further states that one of the world’s most incomprehensible pandemics is not a conventional virus but the ramifications of unaddressed wartime trauma. According to Stillman, wartime trauma has the potential to move vertically and horizontally through individuals and family members across years, decades, and centuries. Youssef et al. (2) state that the heritability of PTSD effects has altered the offspring’s DNA markings. According to Youssef et al. (5), Holocaust survivors who suffered trauma and starvation had kids who developed metabolic syndromes. This demonstrates the synergy between nature and nurture to impact humans.
Nature and nature intersect when they prompt individuals to recognize and cope with their genetic conditions and realities. Weijun Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias recounts her experiences struggling with hereditary illnesses and conditions such as schizophrenia. In one of the essays, “High Functioning,” Wang tells the time she worked with schizoaffective disorder diagnosis and other compounding factors. Notably, she is awakened to the mental challenges that people who struggle with such conditions go through as they navigate a society that is likely to ostracize them. Wang states that living with schizophrenia led her to work in school, and she was consistently at risk when institutionalized. She states that her mental state influenced her dress, as she could wake up psychotic or depressed. This demonstrates nature as genetics cross over the realm of nurture because circumstances demand it. She had to adapt to her environment and pursue goals that led to her sustenance, such as venturing into entrepreneurship, relationships, and marriage. This is a similar circumstance that Moalem demonstrates with bees genetically marked as foragers turning into nurse bees and caring for their young ones to ensure their posterity is not neglected.
Normalcy varies in different contexts because of the intersecting effects of nature and nurtures on individuals. One is prompted to act in specific ways to fit in because of their genetic condition. Wang demonstrates her conformity to the normal standard in different contexts. When she is giving a talk at Chinatown clinic housing people with mental health struggles, she uses her outfit, including her wedding ring, and her speech to accentuate that in outside society, she has managed to exist with ordinary people in society as an entrepreneur, patient, or wife depending on the social context. However, she emphasized that she is still like the mentally ill struggling with mental health challenges as her illness never went away but is just managed.
Human genes are not immutable but somewhat fluid and susceptible to change driven by profound experiences and interactions with the environment. Therefore, the notion that nature and nurture are perfectly mutually exclusive is a fallacy since there are conditions where one’s genes are altered as a result of experiences that their parents may have faced before they were born. As established earlier, generational trauma can travel horizontally or vertically in one’s posterity, as was revealed with Shoji, whose trauma from the Hiroshima bombings was passed down to her daughter and granddaughter. Therefore, one’s nature can be influenced by both nature and nurture. In addition, people born with certain genetic traits are demonstrated to have to cope with such traits by developing certain habits to cope with the reality in their environments. As established, bees genetically marked as foragers could turn into nurses when they realize their circumstances demand them to take care of their children. Finally, normalcy varies in different contexts as influenced by the works of nature and nurture. It has been established that nature can influence nurture just as effectively as nurture can affect nature.
Youssef, Nagy A et al. “The Effects of Trauma, with or without PTSD, on the Transgenerational DNA Methylation Alterations in Human Offsprings.” Brain Sciences, vol. 8, no. 83, pp 1-7, 2018.