Monday, May 10, 2010

Nature vs Nurture

This has been swirling around in my head for ages now. Time for it to make it's way out. It's a contentious issue and all I have is my own experience and observation. I am not an "adoption expert" or psychologist. I am just a Mommy who loves her little boy to distraction.

So yes. (This may be a bit boring for those who are not interested in adoption, haha!)

Here goes.

I guess I will start out by saying that I love that Rupi has inherited biological characteristics and talents from Sweetpea and J. This is important to us as we want him to be able to trace his biological heritage. We feel that it's important for his self worth and identity. So the fact that he's already incredibly musical is wonderful. Both J and Sweetpea are very musically gifted. We are trying to nurture it and go along to music groups and have music on in the house all the time (when really I would rather have talk back radio on- yes I know, yawn!)

Rupi is completely free from any expectation on our part of how he should look, behave and act. When we look at him we don't look for Auntie Gill's eyes or Poppa's artistic ability. And I love that. In my book it means that we are able to truly love him for who he is, not who we think he should be.

The first thing that struck me in this nature vs nurture debate really hit my funny bone. The birth families don't have contact with one another so we see them separately. Both sides claimed ownership of the same characteristics. Odd I thought, and very funny. We just agreed with them! As time has gone on, they have identified more of the same personality and physical traits as coming form their particular side of the family. Now unless they are closely related (which would be strange and yucky) this is simply not possible.

It made me start to think about what we call inherited vs what is a result of environment.

Rupi has begun to copy me a lot. I am his primary caregiver and he is picking up a lot of my personality traits. It's hilarious particularly when it's something like grunting when he picks an object up as I am doing at the moment (due to the ENORMOUS weight strapped to my front!) There are also other traits like the way he is starting to talk, laugh, sing and dance. He is mimicking me and honestly sometimes it's a bit freaky!

Here's the thought: how much of what we call an inherited biological trait is actually a result of the environment we grow up in? For example: I laugh like my Mom. Everybody says that I inherited that from her. But maybe I picked it up off her, heard her laugh like that a million times and so began to laugh just like her? It's hard to tell the difference in a biological family as nature and nurture are intertwined. But with adoption they are separated and so you can observe them independently.

Yes there are the stories of siblings separated at birth and finding one another years later, discovering they have the same traits. There's no doubt that nature plays a strong role. But I am finding the emerging influence of the environment fascinating. As we are not threatened by the inherited traits or desperate for the environmental traits it's lovely to see the development of both.

There's no real point to this discussion. But there is a strong message in the adoption community about the high value of nature. Nurture gets a bad rap and is very much second in line. The thinking is that inherited traits far outweigh traits developed in an environment. And I wonder if we go too far because the experts desperately want to link the child back to his biological heritage? The child is linked- this is no longer the 1950's with closed adoptions the norm. Birth families and adoptive families generally have open and honest relationships- well, in my experience anyway.

Hmmm. It will be interesting to watch as Rupi grows to see how this pans out! In the mean time we are just loving the journey with him. Cute little man!

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Simoney said...

Those are really interesting thoughts Sammy.
Here's a thought to toos in there too...
If the "all inherited" thing was so dominant, you'd expect that our kids would speak a bit geordie? Or even with ONE PARENT talking funny, you;d think that they would at least have some kind of northern lilt? not even, ow!
They talk the way I talk, the way most people around them talk.
Nurture in my book is WAY more significant.
Like for Abby's strong will - that's her nature, but I can NURTURE her to the point where NURTURE is the dominant force, and she learns to use her will more appropriately.
interesting... don't worry if my points are completely irrelevant and make no sense.I'm having one of those days!

tea said...

I like what you shared, Sammy. We think about this too.

Gail said...

I've thought a bit about things like this too....It really is interesting. My grandparents will often say I'm just like my mother - and sometimes, I think that actually, maybe that's just what they want to see? Physical features yes, but mannerisms... I think not.

However - there are things that I have had to deal with which I have seen as patterns of behaviour which are repetitive through generations of females. Anger. Self-value. - the impact much weaker on my sister and I as we were not raised in the environment, but still there in a milder form. It's a hard one to explain - and not necessarily factually correct because it's what I've seen and concluded from.

Genetics will do so much - the family and home environment though, I, ME, MYSELF, I believe, is what will have the greatest impact over all on the child.
Like what Simone said (I think)... those characteristics may exisit naturally, but the home environment can nurture the child either in, or away, or channelled correctly (does that make sense)... I've lost sense. It's late.

Great thought provocking topic though!

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