Saturday, 12 May 2012

Nature v Nurture....the BIG debate rumbles on....

Hi all!

This month I wanted to talk a little about the massive debate which is nature versus nuture. I want to look at it in the context of mental illness and whether its just something people are born with or can it be caused by external factors such as upbringing. I was inspired to add my 5 pence worth to the debate as quite a lot of things I've been reading, listening and watching have been on this subject.

For example I'm currently reading a great book called "What is madness" by Darian Leader. Darian devotes some pages to discussing the nature/nuture debate. He concludes that psychosis etc was probably as a result of both genetics and external factors. He comments "...for better or for worse, we inherit not only our parents' genes but also our parents." Darian explains that when a child has biological difficulties (i.e. at a genetic level) it would be near impossible for even the most loving and kind parents to not let these difficulties affect the emotional quality of their parenting, and hence be picked up the child and therefore excerbate the difficulties. So he argues its not so much nature or nature; its a bit of both.

I agree with Darian's thoughts on this but also add that sometimes nurture can alleviate biological conditions not just make them worse. This seems particularly pertinent when I was watching Louis Theroux latest TV series, Extreme Love. He did a fantastic show on children with autism (definately worth a watch, though its already disappeared off of BBC Iplayer (sorry guys!)). One of the kids featured in the show, was diagnosed as severly autistic at birth and yet had managed to be one of the rising stars in his special needs school and was en route to a more mainstream school. Other children in the documentary also shared the same diagnosis at birth and yet had not progressed to the same level of development. So what set this one kid apart? It seemed to me that it was how he grew up. He lived in a massive family with lots of brothers and sisters and also had a twin sister. People with autism are known for their solitary and anti-social behaviour. For this one kid, there was no choice but to be socially stimulated, and I think this is what set him apart from kids with the same condition and helped him develop beyond his condition.

Some more food for thought comes in the form of a KCL lecture podcast, which sides more with the nature argument and adds that where nurture plays a part, its often based on that individual and not lots of external factors. Here's the link to the podcast:

Podcast lecture KCL

This debate is very tricky and certainly not something that can be sorted out in a little, old blog like mine but thought I'd add my contribution to the big debate!

Till next month

Take care