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Nature vs. Nurture in Mental Development

Nature vs. Nurture

It is worth noting that the intelligence and abilities of an individual can be inherited and developed, but the identification of the system of ethical values is the outcome of social interactions. Even if mental capacity is largely determined by genes, it is still vulnerable to external exposures (Powledge, 2011). For instance, several studies were conducted to evaluate the development of intelligence. One of the studies demanded to solve problems that would not rely solely on verbal knowledge and symbols, and the results showed an average increase in scores from one generation to another. During the period covered by this study, the changes did not occur as a result of the evolution, and they could not be attributed to genetic changes in the population. It can be considered as an evidence of the ability of the environment to influence characteristics such as mental development.

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According to studies held in recent years, human genes influence the interaction with the external environment. The environment determines which DNA elements would appear and which would not (Powledge, 2011). The actions of people and the control of attention levels in the pursuit of the goals are part of the environment, which, in its turn, also affects humans. This interaction largely determines the physical and mental health, the quality of life and life expectancy.

Thus, people and the tendencies in their behavioral patterns including the character and personality, attitudes and even political beliefs, reflect the complex effects of the human genes, the manifestations of which are determined by several external determinants in the course of life. The inclinations are generated by a complex interplay of influences of both genes and environment, which means that the issue of “nature versus nurture” is no longer relevant (Powledge, 2011). The environment may be as deterministic as gene seemed deterministic earlier, and the gene can be as malleable as the external environment. Consequently, most predispositions are programmed partly, but also they are quite flexible and can be changed, so nature and nurture are inseparable.


The cross-sectional research method is to compare the same performance indicators in different sampling groups. The longitudinal method is the repeated examination of the same sample for a long time (Gravetter & Forzano, 2015). A number of advantages and disadvantages characterize both types. It will be possible to analyze the pros and cons of each type on the example of mental development research of children.

The cross-sectional research on mental development will include the study of the same psychological characteristics in different age groups of children at different levels of development. Different personality traits, clinical response, and other variables will be considered. The main advantage of this method will be the comparative speed of research and the possibility of acquiring the results in a short time (Gravetter & Forzano, 2015). However, the results of this type of research will be static because they would not show the dynamics of the process and its continuity, and many of the investigated patterns would be approximate.

The modern longitudinal research will be designed to detect the physical and mental development of the child. It will be possible to study a group of children from month to month, and display the norms at different age levels. The longitudinal method would have several advantages compared to the cross-sectional research. It would allow the processing of data in individual age periods and make it possible to determine the dynamics of development of each child (Gravetter & Forzano, 2015). Most importantly, only the longitudinal type of research will enable solving the issue of critical periods in the development. Consequently, if considering conducting research on fetal alcohol syndrome and its impact on cognitive development during each stage of development, the longitudinal type would fit the best. It would allow researching every stage in detail and allow defining the dynamics. However, it is obvious that even the objective observation of one child would not allow universal values, and the main drawback of the longitudinal research would be a significant investment of time required for organizing and conducting the research.


Gravetter, F., & Forzano, L. A. (2015). Research methods for the behavioral sciences. Boston, MA: Cengage.

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Powledge, T. (2011). Behavioral epigenetics: How nurture shapes nature. BioScience, 61(8), 588-592.

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