Nature or nurture? 

Nature or nurture? 

I was sat watching my daughter the other day, I could watch her all day, her and back to back episodes of House – I know I am about 10 years late too to that party but I digress. I was watching my tiny 20 month old giving her dad some attitude followed by a typical toddler strop, where she hits the deck and hides her head. I know this isn’t uncommon in little ones. They can’t express themselves, they act out, they don’t yet know appropriate behaviour, I get that, but it did get me wondering about behaviour. See sometimes she does things (good and bad) I have never taught her, never done in front of her and that to my knowledge she has never seen, such as said strop and I wonder where this comes from? Sometimes she is funny, she does silly things that make me actual LOL and it seems as though she is doing it because she knows it’s funny. So I wonder, how does she know how to do these things. Is it in her nature to have a sense of humour? Is she going to be funny like her dad? Or has her dads playful, teasing ways already started to influence who she is. Is she being sub consciously nurtured to be this way?

With that in mind I thought about the reverse of this. Above I was talking about my daughters funny, naughty but ultimately innocent ways. But actually there is a much darker side to my pondering. A deeper undercurrent that really perplexes and scares me in equal measure. That is the Nature vs Nurture debate in all its ugliness. There have been some pretty horrific news story’s of late, so much so it’s stayed with me and left me stewing over it. I am talking about the two teenagers who were convicted of brutally killing Angela Wrightson. They were 13 and 14. Shockingly they are not the only teenagers to make the headlines for such horrific crimes. We have heard about 15-year-old Will Cornick who fatally stabbed his teacher, 14-year-old Daniel Batlam who was found guilty of killing his mother with a hammer and then setting the house alight and we are all painfully aware of the story of Jamie Bulger – these are just a select few. How is it such young minds can be guilty of such atrocious criminality? Were they born this way? Can anyone be born this way? Or were they a product of an incomprehensible youth devoid of love and guidance? Did their nurturing (or lack thereof) through childhood have such a profound effect on them it caused or contributed toward their crimes?

ROyal courts of justice

When researching this post I found that the QC defending the older girl in the trial of the case of Angela Wrightson, said that she came from a ‘terrible, violent and unstable upbringing’. In the case of Jamie Bulger the parents, or rather mothers, of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson (the absent father somehow gets a pass on this one) were vilified as giving such dysfunctional upbringings that the judge felt it necessary to bring it to the forefront of the publics attention so that child social care would be put under the microscope.

But that doesn’t explain the case of Will Cornick, or that of Daniel Bartlem. Both boys were considered ‘intelligent’, Cornick’s parents were described as ‘ decent’ and ‘responsible’ people who aided the police with their investigations. Bartlem was not considered to be from a dysfunction background either, rather he was said to have had a privileged upbringing and enjoyed private education. Yet, both committed horrific and violent murders. Was such violence just in their nature?

Growing up I always thought we were born a blank canvas and we are taught the rights and wrongs of the world by those around us. I have since come to accept that actually this may be wrong. For my part, I know two people very close to me, who despite their genetic nature being different had exactly the same loving, decent, wholesome upbringing that would put your stereotypical  ‘soccer mom‘ to shame. Despite this identical nurturing over the years they are incredibly different people, with different values, different moral compass and strength of character. Don’t get me wrong one isn’t a murderer (or any kind of criminal for that matter) but there is a notable difference in who they have become. Did nature win here too?

newborns-at-hospital

For my part, I am not sure we’ll ever really know the answer and individuality of character must come into it somewhere. But I do think people’s nature has a lot to answer for. I fear it can pull the strings behind many actions. Dare I say that there may even be those whose nature will always have the final say and dictate who they are? But I do not wish to accept (perhaps incorrectly, or perhaps naively) that nurture cannot influence a person. I want to believe that, actually, we can teach and nurture a person to be good and kind, strong and respectful. Or at least better, kinder, stronger and more respectful than they might have been. As a parent I feel I have to believe this, the alternative scares me. I have to believe that my constant nagging to my children, to eat with cutlery, to say thank you, to share, to not push is all having an impact on them. I want to believe that nurture CAN influence an individual.

What do you think? Nature or nurture? Or perhaps a bit of both?

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References for the above post are as follows:
  1. Court sentencing transcript in the case of R v D and F 
  2. BBC.co.uk/news 
  3. The Guardian online 

47 Comments

  1. April 24, 2016 / 8:36 am

    Wow, well that you for stretching my brain with this – what an interesting article – you write so engagingly that I was questioning and nodding through the entire post. I am a firm believer in nurture and the environment in which your children grow up in. All the values we instill are deep rooted from our own upbringings also – nurture can go back along way. But if an outside force (unknown to the parent) starts to impact on the child then that can shape the child also – this brings me to gaming – a friend of my son’s whose parents I really get on with have excellent parenting values apart from the level of games there son plays – as a result he is violent and uses inappropriate language – his parents were shocked by a recent altercation between him and another boy at school (we weren’t) and since then have stopped the playing of such games – now I know that without ever have being exposed to those games he would not have been so violent – they had a huge impact on his character. Oh you’ve got me all fired up – but just such an interesting debate – love it and thank you for making my brain work this morning – really really interesting article! #KCACOL

    • tammymum
      April 24, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Wow thank you for that I really appreciate your comment. Yes that’s a very good point you make and I have little doubt that you are so right in respect of the violent influence that gaming in particular can have on a young one, it is actually quite scary. That being said I have a cousin who is a very big gamer, yet he is the most placid and laid back teenager I know. I honestly cannot imagine he has a violent bone in his body. Arrrgh there it is again nature vs nurture. It is (to me) such an interesting topic that I could go on and on about. I agree with you, nurture is so important and must have an impact on our little ones but there is always something niggle-Ing away at the back of my mind that perhaps sometimes nature just cannot be overruled. Scary. Thanks again for your great comment, hope it wasn’t too heavy for your Sunday morning read lol xx

      • April 24, 2016 / 5:03 pm

        oooooh good point to prove my mine wrong – arghhh – nature vs nurture – we could discuss for hours lovely! xx and not at all – love a good brain stretch!

  2. thesingleswan
    April 24, 2016 / 9:58 am

    Being a Mum is scary. You do your best, but then your little one will come out with surprising actions and you just look at them and think ‘I didn’t teach you that, I have never done that’ not even when you were in bed and certainly not in front of you. Cygnet had a tantrum the other day and walked into the kitchen and kicked the washing machine really hard, like really hard four times. I had to grab hold of his foot to stop him and to explain that you shouldn’t kick the washing machine, or indeed anything other than a ball in the park.

    I am a single mum and Cygnet spends a lot of time with his Dad. Perhaps his Dad has been cursing the washing machine/. #KCACOLS

    • tammymum
      April 25, 2016 / 8:10 am

      Haha yes perhaps it was dad ????. It’s crazy though isn’t it where or how they learn to do these things with seemingly no influence but I guess that’s just the way of life and how people evolve. I suppose it’s our job to educate when they don’t quite get it right…and to save our house hold appliances lol. Thanks for your comment xx

  3. April 25, 2016 / 8:18 am

    Great post and one to make you stop and think, definitely both involved, you are what you are and then you are shaped by those around you. #KCACOLS & #MarvMondays

    • tammymum
      April 25, 2016 / 8:19 am

      Yep I think that’s a pretty accurate summary actually. Thank you for your comment xx

  4. April 25, 2016 / 8:36 am

    I think nurture has A LOT to do with it but at the same time there are things that can’t be explained. For example, adopted children often display behaviour at odds with their upbringing, which suggest nature is also at play… #marvmondays

  5. April 25, 2016 / 8:36 am

    Oh I think about this a lot. I probably worry about tiny little things, ‘nurture’ things, that might contribute to my son being a Kevin…as in we need to talk about Kevin… A book no pregnant woman should read! And this came up in my mind again recently with the book just released by the mother of one of the columbine killers…a mother’s reckoning. Honestly I don’t know the answer, probably a bit of both nature and nurture. Who knows the complex joining of cells to create the brain or the impact anything has on that…the way different neurons talk to each other etc. I do think we can only do our best to create a loving, kind environment so that the pathways in the brain are positive and loving (we can’t do much about all the other influences on their lives though) and then…well maybe then it is up to nature. Interesting post lovely #bigpinklink

  6. April 25, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    This is such an interesting debate, and you’ve approached and written it wonderfully!! Like most things for me, it’s something I really sit on the fence with. I definitely think that if you come from a terrible background, this will most often be reflected in the type of person you will become-but then people have totally overcome this and ended up well adjusted human beings. On the other hand, I feel that if you are a sociopath or a psychopath, you are born this way, and no amount of love and attention will change this. So basically what I’m saying is it’s mainly nurture, but sometimes nurture won’t matter, and nature prevails, (solely in my opinion though!!) And yes, there have been times where one of my children has beaten the other in the head, or done some other awful thing that has come from nowhere, and I’ve thought the worst. And like you, I will keep nurturing and loving, and hope that that behaviour is just toddlers being toddlers, and not something sinister. Thank you for a fabulously thought provoking post.
    #bigpinklink

  7. April 25, 2016 / 6:25 pm

    Isn’t this something that terrifies every parent? It’s such an intriguing subject, to think what makes someone a killer? I heard about those two girls and it made me sick to my stomach, such young ages and able to do something so horrifically vile. It just makes me want to desperately shield my children from the world. And I’ve just no answer to why it happens. :( Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    • tammymum
      April 26, 2016 / 12:49 pm

      Doesn’t it just make you want to shield and protect your little ones from ever knowing the horrible things that happen out there. Thank you for your comment xx

  8. April 25, 2016 / 6:58 pm

    I worry so much about who my sons will grow up to be. The world is a scary place these days and sometimes I don’t think it matters what we try to teach our children, as they begin to grow up and know their own minds, it’s up to them to do the majority of steering to keep themselves right. Does that sound lazy? #KCACOLS

    • tammymum
      April 26, 2016 / 12:50 pm

      No not lazy, we can guide and influence but I guess ultimately the buck lie with them when it comes to the final decision they as individuals make, we just have trust our influence has stood them well I guess. Thank you for your comment xx

  9. April 25, 2016 / 7:28 pm

    Goodness, a very deep post. I have never really thought about Nurture or Nature in this context before?
    All we can do is parents is our best, I guess. Simple x
    #MarvMondays

    • tammymum
      April 26, 2016 / 12:51 pm

      Absolutely! We can teach and guide as best we can and I’m not sure what more we can do. Was a bit of a deep one ey…sometimes the post just gets carried away with you. Thanks for your comment xx

  10. Tracey @ One Frazzled Mum
    April 25, 2016 / 7:39 pm

    This is a great post, I have something similar in the works too. It is something I have thought about a lot as my daughter is exactly the same as I was at her age yet I have never discussed this with her at all. I personally think we are born with a predisposition to certain things yet others are attributed to other things.

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • tammymum
      April 26, 2016 / 12:53 pm

      Yes I think you’re right, we do have a predisposition and then our surroundings and upbringing can sway or influence that predisposition…hopefully (in some cases). Thank you for your comment xx

  11. April 26, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    What a thought provoking post. I think there’s something to be said for nature and nurture – I don’t see how they can be mutually exclusive. I’d like to think that nurturing a person can help to minimise any potentially damaging aspects of their nature, and I’m sure that it does. Not everyone with a bad upbringing will turn out bad and vice versa. Scary thought then that as a parent, whatever you do, you can’t influence every aspect of your child’s life outcomes. They will follow their own path. #Passthesauce

  12. April 27, 2016 / 5:59 am

    What an absolutely awesome article! This really left me thinking for quite awhile, and I enjoyed every aspect of it. You really hit the question from all angles, and made some awesome points. Being a mother is so terrifying, really. Knowing that you are responsible for another person…that’s a huge load to carry sometimes. I totally get where you’re coming from, and this is something I think about quite often. I think many murderers and serial killers, etc. have a mental illness. Yes, there are those who were raised by dysfunctional families, but I think a majority of them suffer with severe mental illness.
    This really is an interesting piece, and something I’m seriously going to ponder.
    Thanks so much for sharing <3 x #KCACOLS

    • tammymum
      April 27, 2016 / 11:23 am

      Ah thank you that is such a lovely comment, I am glad you enjoy it. I know it has always been something that intrigued me before I had kids but I am all the more aware of it now. I think you’re right, I think there is something in a person that makes them a murder or a serial killer, be it a mental illness or I don’t know psychopathic tendency – I’m not sure. But I also believe how we raise our children has a huge impact on them, of I could go on and on lol. Thanks again for your comment xx

  13. April 27, 2016 / 11:27 am

    I found this so riveting (if a little uncomfortable) to read. You raise a question that I think I have been trying to bury my head in the sand over. I had a conversation with a friend who has two year old twin girls a couple of days ago. She told me that despite them both having had exactly the same upbringing, meals, play dates, friends etc, they have completely different personalities. I think that we do all have a genetically pre-programmed set of traits, but I believe that our values and morals and behaviours are also learned and shaped by those around us. I think that on the whole I’m a pretty decent human being (ish?) and I hope to instill those same values in my children. To think anything other than this though is just terrifying isn’t it?
    Thanks for sharing your post with #PassTheSauce. x

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 6:51 pm

      Thank you for your comment, yes it is absolutely a scary thought! The whole nature thing itself can be quite scary as a parent but like you say, we just do our best to pass on our good traits and hope it sticks with our little ones xx

  14. April 27, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    It’s such a horribly fascinating subject isn’t it. I think all parents desperately want to believe that it’s nurture that makes a person, that we can shape who our little people become, and I do believe that that’s a huge part of it. But clearly there is some part of us that nature influences – those things that your child does that leave you puzzled. Really interesting post. #bloggerclubuk

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Yes I would love to believe it is just nurture but there is something niggling away at me that makes me think that nature can have a big part to play too. But for our part, we just do our best to nurture well and hope it sticks xx

  15. April 27, 2016 / 7:08 pm

    I would like to think that as parents we are nurturing our children into their behaviours, and growing up in the right way. However I think a lot of outside influences are imposed on our children’s lives, from their friends, TV, social media etc….I really hope that we can nurture our children to understand what is right, and what is wrong. Claire x #BloggerClubUK

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Yes I certainly hope so too! I’d like to think we have the biggest impact on them, but I also think there will e things outside our control…scarily. Thanks for your comment xx

  16. twotinyhands
    April 28, 2016 / 6:25 am

    I’m in the nurture camp. I’ve always thought of the actions of parents being the thing that moulds the child. I see so similarities between me and my mother, I must have got that from her right!?

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 8:05 pm

      Absolutely! I think nurture must have a lot to do and as parents I’d like to think we are their biggest influence. Thanks for your comment xx

  17. April 28, 2016 / 11:14 am

    Interesting and yes, when you talk about those high brow cases in the news, it is very scary. I believe there is a bit of both nature and nurture in all of us, but I agree with you that nurture must play a huge part in it. We are bound to be heavily influenced by our parents values and behaviour. I also think that peers especially influence young people so perhaps this is the reason behind the intelligent boy with the good background? I’ve just written a similar post that makes you ponder on whether it’s the personality of a child or their position in the family (eldest vs youngest) that affects their behaviour. Thanks for sharing xx #CoolMumClub

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      Oow I will definitely go and check that post out, sound really interesting. Yes I think influence of our parents/others must have an impact but I can’t get away from that feeling that our nature has its part to play too…scarily. Thank you for your comment xx

  18. April 28, 2016 / 11:14 am

    very interesting post and comments. personally I can’t stand it when things like film/video/music gets blamed for how people behave. I appreciate it CAN and DOES have an influence but typically it isn’t the whole reason why someone did or didn’t do something. I used to be in with gothic kids at school and we always had a bad name due to the school shootings in America. in reality, the people I knew and hung out with were the most laid back, calm people. #coolmumclub

    • tammymum
      April 28, 2016 / 8:13 pm

      That’s just stereotyping isn’t it? I have no time for that, just because we dress a certain way or hang out with certain people doesn’t mean people can jump to a conclusion about who we are. An influence can come from any walk or life or be an person it’s just how much influence that person has is the bit than gets me… Thank you for your comment lovey xx

  19. April 28, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    Very well written post that brings up what I’ve often thought. It really is a combination of the two and whilst I know for a fact my eldest would have a calmer temperament if her mother did (she even makes the same facial expressions and sounds like me) I can honestly say, looking at all 3 of my kids, that they are more a product of their own nature than my (inadequate) nurturing. #marvmondays

    • tammymum
      April 29, 2016 / 7:19 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Yes I think it is both too but like you I think people’s nature can be the over ridding factor xx

  20. April 29, 2016 / 11:17 am

    This is such an interesting topic and one that I wrote about a while ago…so fascinating. I think scientists agree that while genetics prevail outside environmental factors also have a significant part to play. Thanks so much for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

    • tammymum
      April 29, 2016 / 7:21 pm

      Ow I’ll be sure to go check that out. Yes I think that’s a pretty accurate summary! Thank you for your comment xx

  21. April 29, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    Oh this is really interesting! I think nature definitely plays a part but nurture is, in my mind, more powerful. Having said that there are so many unconscious things that parents, family and wider society do which influence children that it’s not always a simple cause and effect thing. Thought provoking post!

    • tammymum
      April 29, 2016 / 7:31 pm

      Thank you yes, I find it really interesting if not a little scary. I definitely think there is a bit of both at play! Thanks for your comment lovey xx

  22. April 29, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    A great post! It is a topic which I find fascinating and have been studying for several years now through my role as a teacher. In my opinion you are born with some degree of personality which is then impacted through development, experiences and relationships. As part of my antenatal classes we watched a fascinating dvd about the importance of eye contact in the first few days and weeks for forming the brains pathways which then impact on development and intelligence and the key – emotions. Even young children have very complex personalities and brothers and sisters can be so different that I believe that nature plays a stronger part than a lot of people believe. My fears are peers (very important and uncontrollable), Internet and social media (despite lots of Internet safety lessons the message just doesn’t seem in my experience to be going in – sexting, cyber bullying, online abuse etc. are really concerning). Obviously parental nurture is important as we can help a child to be better placed to deal with these things and know what to do if confeonted with issues.
    Thank you. I hope you have shared this with some big companies as it is a great post x

    • tammymum
      April 29, 2016 / 9:18 pm

      Thank you Laura that’s a really fab comment. I wish I had known that about eye contact before I had my babies, I’d of stared them outall day every day lol. Yes I think that’s right nature must, to my mind, play a big part in who we are and us as parents can just try are best to influence them (for the better) as best we can. The external factors are endless and you could loose sleep worrying about it. It all really interests me and I could go on and on about it his topic… Thanks again lovey xxx

  23. April 30, 2016 / 6:54 am

    I would say I am on the nurture side and yes I do see similarities between my and my own mother but I am very conscious that I want to take the best of me and the best of what I know and instill this in my baby. There is no right answer though xx
    #bigpinklink

  24. min1980
    April 30, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    Oh this is such an interesting one. From what I understand of it, there is a very fine interplay between the two, and certain genes are switched on or off as a result of our upbringing-I use the word “upbringing” here to also include things that we actually have very little control over, such as the environment in utero, which is also thought to have an effect from what I have read on the subject. Epigenetics is still very much in its infancy though, and I am certainly no expert! It is something that interests me a lot, and worries me sometimes because as the parent of a donor-conceived child, half of Piglet’s genetic heritage is completely unknown to me. As far as toddler strops are concerned though, our little ones are pretty much exactly the same age and Piglet definitely has these so I think it’s a developmental thing. I’m fairly sure there are some things, such as stamping feet when annoyed and also, weirdly, dancing, that all kids just do, regardless of whether they have seen them done or not! #fortheloveofBLOG

  25. May 1, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    Wow, what an interesting and thought-provoking article! I once read an autobiography of a woman who had murdered another child when she was just ten years old. It was very dark as you can imagine, but I recall thinking she had had such a normal, loving upbringing (by her own admission). So then what was the cause of the crime? Was she just inherently born bad? Like you, I really don’t have the answer but I really will stop at nothing to encourage my children to be decent, kind human beings. No parent wants to believe that their child has been born “bad” after all but it is naïve to be unaware of our children’s faults. I’m sure we can influence even their most basic behaviours – if not then it suggests people are little better than animals following every impulse, which I just don’t think is true. Thanks so much for sharing this really interesting post on our first week of #fortheloveofBLOG – really hope you can join us again next week x

    • tammymum
      May 2, 2016 / 6:33 pm

      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. What an interesting, if not scary read that must have been, I’d love to know the name of the book? You do make some excellent points there’s, you really would like to think we’re better than animals but you can totally see the comparison! Thanks again for your comment xx

  26. Becky, Cuddle Fairy
    May 3, 2016 / 3:36 pm

    I think a bit of both. But I also think that nature is a lot stronger than we give it credit for! Look at the how different each baby’s personality is at birth. Nature really is amazing! Thanks so much for linking up with #bloggerclubuk x

    • tammymum
      May 3, 2016 / 8:12 pm

      Yes very good point. I think nature does have a very big sway in it too. Thanks for your comment xx