One of the most significant debates in philosophy involves whether nature is more important to the development of a child than nurturing. The opposite may also be true, with nurture tendencies sometimes playing a significant role in personality and social development.
When we look at these two issues, it is essential to define the term for each one. For the purpose of this comparison of the nature vs. nurture pros and cons, here are the definitions used.
- Nature refers to the genetic profile and hereditary factors that influence who each person becomes from a physical standpoint. This element includes our characteristics, appearance, and overall short- and long-term health profile.
- Nurture refers to every environmental variable that impacts who we become as we grow up, including the experiences of our early childhood, how our parents raised us, who our friends were, and what the surrounding culture happened to be.
Different branches of psychology take a preference one looking at one over the other still today. Biological psychology tends to look at the importance of biological influences, whereas behaviorism wants to focus on the impacts that the environment has on personal behavior.
Most of the debates involving these two perspectives tend to take a one-sided approach. Most experts today recognize that both play a critical role in the person that we become one day. These elements also interact with us in important ways throughout our lives.
List of the Pros of Nature vs Nurture
1. Nature makes it possible for all of us to exist in the first place.
None of us would be living on this planet if there wasn’t a natural process for reproduction. We need to have nature involved at the earliest stages of life because that is how we create the next generation. By taking care of ourselves and managing health needs wisely, it becomes possible to pass along genetic information to our children which allows them to have a natural foundation for success.
The opposite is also true. When populations stay centered on a handful of family groups with intermarriage, their generations have a higher risk of begin a genetic disease carrier. Some of the health issues in the Ashkenazi Jewish population place the risk of an adverse health problem as high as 1 in 10 – partially due to the impact of the Holocaust during World War II.
2. Nature creates a playground that children love to explore.
Nature sets the foundation for life. It also creates a gigantic learning laboratory that provides open-ended learning opportunities. The curiosity that children have to experience the various senses that are found in the outdoors comes from their physical foundation. It is an opportunity for them to develop their creativity, embrace discovery, and begin to learn problem-solving skills. By interacting with the natural environment, kids can learn through experimentation. Their ideas allow them to make hypotheses as they question everything. This thinking opportunity can lead to significant intelligence advantages later in life because they have practiced the skill of being critical through independence.
3. Nature offers emotional benefits worth considering as well.
Although the nurturing environment is usually associated with a child’s emotional wellbeing, nature reinforces this opportunity because if physically feels good to go outside. When you are no longer confined to a house or vehicle, then there is freedom to move about and explore. You can make plenty of noise out there! By creating opportunities for self-expression, it becomes possible to walk, run, skip, climb, roll, jump, and get dirty. These activities work to reduce tension, encourage relaxation, and reduce the anxiety that some children have.
Being outdoors and interacting with nature can even calm the kids who deal with attention deficit disorders. It enhances the sense of peace that they have, allowing their personal nurturing qualities to come out. You will find them watching bugs, digging holes, or even engaging in imaginative play with twigs and puddles.
4. Nature provides several social benefits to children and adults.
When people take the time to play outside, then there are more opportunities to interact with new potential friends. You can decide to play alone if you want, or you can choose to connect with other people. It is a way for kids to learn how to share, while adults can benefit from the chance to engage in problem solving. It is not unusual to see people collaborating to make up games with unique rules because there are no prescribed instructions that demand compliance. It provides everyone with a chance to solve their own problems without inhibition.
5. Nature teaches people how to become gentle.
One of the most unique aspects about nature is that even the most boisterous children start slowing down to learn how to become gentle. You might become irritated with a bully or frustrated with a parent, but the butterfly that landed next to you has zero negative associations. It is even possible for people to develop a deep empathy for others, consoling friends who seem hurt or feel sad, because of the lessons they learned with their friends or by themselves through the natural process.
6. Nature allows us to remain fit and active.
Focusing on the physical side of life allows each of us to become fit and active according to our preferences. Nurturing can help with this process as well, but it only encourages you to put in the work. When you engage with this side of the debate, then you can find numerous benefits. Breathing in fresh air can feel invigorating, which can help you to build a stronger body. Sunlight exposure encourages higher levels of vitamin D to create a more robust immune system.
That doesn’t mean kids should step outside whenever they want without adult supervision. Excluding the idea of “stranger danger” from the conversation, there are still injury risks to consider when climbing trees, hanging from bars, chasing friends, or even jumping into puddles. Many kids see an enhancement in their natural development when their parents join in on the unstructured play opportunities that happen outside.
7. Nature can help overcome socioeconomic differences.
Children who come from families with more wealth typically have better health when they are an adult. In looking at over 1,200 adults, a study published in Psychological Science found that kids growing up in a household where neither parent had a high school diploma were more likely to experience metabolic syndrome as an adult. That medical term indicates fat around the waist, high blood pressure, and other factors that can lead to heart disease and diabetes. By spending time out in nature, it is possible to counter or reverse the physical impact that occurs when there are financial issues in the family.
8. Nature connects families to real food.
Because of the activities that are in the schedule of most families today, the typical meal includes processed, high-calorie food options that can promote higher levels obesity. Diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease are growing threats for even teens today. By focusing on the nature aspect of a relationship, you would have sit-down meals as a family. The menu would include organic, naturally-sourced items that might even come from your garden.
In some states, one-third of children are obese, with some having a BMI over 40. By embracing nature over nurture sometimes, it becomes possible to stem the tide of poor physical choices through unconditional love by focusing on the exact things that the body needs for a successful existence.
9. Nature can improve a child’s eyesight and insight.
When children spend more time in the outdoors focusing on the natural components of life, then there is a reduction of nearsightedness risks up through adolescence. Access to green spaces (even if they are only seen at times), can enhance the feelings of peace that a child feels while growing up. There are significant improvements in self-discipline, self-control, and independent thinking. Girls especially benefit from this unique set of advantages.
List of the Cons of Nature vs Nurture
1. Nurturing provides children with a safe place to grow up.
The CDC reports that child abuse and neglect effects millions of families each year even though it is a public health problem which is 100% preventable. Maltreatment includes all types of abuse and neglect to children under the age of 18 by anyone in a custodial role. That includes teachers and coaches. It is a severe problem that the nature element of the debate does not address.
In 2015, almost 700,000 children were victims of maltreatment in the United States, with many more cases not reported to social workers, abuse investigators, or law enforcement personnel. More than 1,670 children died because of their abuse and neglect, with 75% of the fatalities occurring among children under the age of 3.
2. Nurturing could remove the cost burden of abuse and neglect.
The total lifetime cost of new cases of fatal or non-fatal child maltreatment in the United States totals approximately $124 billion each year. Although this problem is complex and rooted in unhealthy relationships and environments, it is something that the nurturing process naturally tries to resolve. Nature would say that the strongest children who survive are meant to do so, completely ignoring the element of abuse in favor of a genetic profile that can become stronger perhaps because of it.
3. Nurturing can help the brain of a child to physically grow.
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered through MRI scans that preschoolers who receive more love and support in a nurturing environment can have specific regions of their brain physically grow. In a study of 92 children, researchers measured the hippocampus region of each child’s brain, which is the area that handles stress, emotional regulation, and memory. Powerful nurturing allows the brain to stimulate its own growth because it is more sensitive to changes in early life.
4. Nurturing is a process which occurs naturally for most people.
There are always outliers to every rule, but most parents typically find that cuddling their kids is an activity which comes naturally. When your kiddo looks cute, then giving them a hug seems like the natural thing to do. Even during the times when being supportive or patient is a struggle for a parent, following up an imperfect conversation with personal time and a willingness to apologize can make everything right. Everyone loses their cool at times. The nurturing process makes it possible to recover those relationships because there is love found in the foundation of each moment.
5. Nurturing can reverse financial deficits too.
Focusing on natural activities can help kids and adults stay physically active and in shape to counter the impact of poverty or socioeconomic circumstances. The same study in Psychological Science that shows natural opportunities can be beneficial also discovered that when a child has a caregiver who pays attention to the emotional well-being through caring and affection, then as adults, these kids are healthier even if they come from disadvantaged families.
The cycle of nurturing can happen just as the generational traditions of maltreatment. When parents give their children the love and nurturing they need each day, then it gives the kids confidence and the desire to do better – which includes taking care of their physical state.
6. Nurturing provides unconditional love.
Nature looks at the finite physical needs to ensure that their body can be healthy and grow. It is a benefit which occurs provided that these items are met. Kids who lack good hygiene, shelter, food, or water are at an immediate disadvantage to those who have regular access to them. Nurturing helps to even the playing field because it provides an unconditional benefit to children.
Nurturing doesn’t care about your genetic profile, how much food you’ve eaten, or where your family lives. It only cares about who you are, and what you want to do in life. The unconditional love and encouragement that it provides goes beyond any of the benefits that nature can offer because the affirmations that people receive can be internalized to become a self-definition of success.
7. Nurturing can make children become physically healthier.
McGill University in Montreal discovered that children living in authoritarian households were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to families whose parents showed affection often. Children between the ages of 2-5 were 30% more likely to be obese, while kids 6-11 were 37% more likely to experience that outcome.
Why does nurturing offer a benefit of physical health? Because children in authoritarian homes were told that they were eating the wrong foods without an explanation as to why they were bad. Authoritative parents using unconditional love and affection would explain which items were wrong, choices that were better, and then show them through example which choices were better.
8. Nurturing creates a stronger bond between parent and child.
The University of Missouri-Columbia found that mothers and children had stronger bonds when the parent showed more affection to their child. This study measured how often the mother took control over a toy, instructing their child on how to play with it during a designated play time. When the parents spent more time directing how to play instead of showing affection during this time, there were more adverse feelings directed toward the parent.
9. Nurturing reduces anxiety levels in children.
When children live in a merit-based environment, then there is a perpetual feeling of fear that exists. These kids don’t want to fail, so they deal with high levels of anxiety every day to ensure that they stay in the good graces of their parent. When there is a fear of failure present in the home, then there is less motivation to learn in school. Kids in this situation are even less interested in their overall education according to information published by The British Psychological Society.
The presence of anxiety even causes a child to stay focused on a hobby or skill they mastered previously instead of looking for opportunities to enjoy a well-rounded education.
A Final Thought on the Nature vs Nurture Debate
What we do know about family environments is that child maltreatment today will create more opportunities for it to exist in the next generation. The good news is that we do have the power to disrupt this vicious cycle. What happens in the past does not define who a person will become.
We must combine the elements of nature and nurturing to ensure that each child has the chance to pursue their dreams. It is up to us to partner with social services, volunteer with prevention organizations, and coordinate efforts in our communities to become the mentors that children need. At the same time, we must encourage healthy eating habits, time for activities, and other physical interactions that maintain the overall physical health of each person too.
By working together, the nature vs. nurture pros and cons show us that we have the power to change things. Our choice is simple: we will either get to work, or we will not. Which will you choose?
Crystal Ayres has served as our editor-in-chief for the last five years. She is a proud veteran, wife and mother. The goal of ConnectUs is to publish compelling content that addresses some of the biggest issues the world faces. If you would like to reach out to contact Crystal, then go here to send her a message.