Nature and Nurture in Personality and Behaviour Development

Essay by sarah9684University, Bachelor'sA, April 2007

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IntroductionSince the first attempt to study nature and nurture in the development of personality and behavioural traits over a century ago, the question that has divided developmental psychologist is whether nature or nurture has the greater bearing (Plomin, 2002). Those with the stance of genes having the predominant influence on development are the naturists, and those opposing them, the nurturists, argue that the surrounding environment during rearing has the significant impact (Ridley, 2003). Using recent and foundation studies done into genetics and environmental impacts on development, this essay will look at both sides of this issue in order to discover which has the strongest case. It is hypothesised that, within the ongoing nature versus nurture debate, the dominant influence on development and behaviour is the surrounding environment during rearing.

BackgroundIn attempting to understand the intricacies of this issue it is useful to go back to its roots. The idea that people differ in their personality and temperament goes back at least to the time of Galen in the 2nd Century (Rutter, 2006).

Galen proposed temperamental traits into sub-divisions of four different qualities – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric (Rutter, 2006). Galen believed that these inborn humours not only determined a person’s behavioural and emotional tendencies but he used them also to refer to their bodily dispositions and susceptibility to certain diseases. While Galen’s theory did not survive him the concept of psychological states being biologically based was prominent until the emergence of Freud’s Psychoanalytical theory and Pavlov’s Behaviourism theory (Rutter, 2006). With these two renowned figures came a surge of support in the overwhelming importance of a person’s environment throughout their development (Rutter, 2006). However, while there are those who are adamant that it’s either nature or nurture, in the past fifty years there has been acceptance from many on...