Nature vs. Nurture


New Member
This dilemna is always going on in my head. Is child rearing nature or nurture?

I watch all kinds of true crime series. I find them interesting. Some find it creepy, I know.

Anyways, one of the shows husband came across and starting recording for me is called "Most Evil".

It's a forensic psychiatrist(ologist)? who has a scale from 1-22 and he rates different people according to how awful their crimes are. The details are pretty graphic, which can prove to me more than I want to hear about, but the science behind some of it, is interesting.

In one of the shows, there is a "world renound" neurologist who has some simple tests he has proven, can help determine if you have damage to your frontal lobe. (this is what I thought might interest some on here)

It's some basic hand/eye testing that helps determine if the frontal lobe of the brain is working properly.

One of the tests, he puts his arms straight out on each side and asks the test subject to look at the hand that's finger does not raise up. So he'd raise his finger up on one hand and watch to see if they would look at the other hand. It's your natural instinct to look at the one moving, so you have to truly think about this to do it properly. Another one he ran his flat hand under the test subjects hands as their hands laid out flat. If the test subjects fingers curled or tried to curl around his fingers, this showed something was wrong. Strange huh?

Has anyone else seen this show? What are your thoughts?


Well-Known Member
I haven't seen the show but I'll watch for it.

My husband and I were just talking about this subject nature vs nurture again last night. We are believing more and more every day that nature is the determining factor and nurture has very little if anything to do with how someone turns out.

For purposes of explaining I am using the terms "good" and "bad".

husband does not believe you can make a good person bad or a bad person good. He believes that whatever genes you are born with pretty much decides how you will turn out. After discussing this a bit he decided perhaps you can take a good person and put them in an awful environment very early and they will turn out bad, but you can do almost nothing to chaange the bad genes someone is born with.

I'm sure this is controversial but it is something that we are both seeing more and more every day with our difficult child. With all the good things we have surrounded her with she is still burdened with genes that cause her to act in complete opposite of how she was raised.



New Member
One thing I saw in one of the shows today was a test they used 1 actor and 1 regular person for. The regular person was put in front of an "electroshock" treatment machine that was very clearly labeled. The worst label stating something like "Dangerous. Potentially lethal shock." They were told each time the other person (actor) did not answer a question correctly, they were to "up" the shock level. They did not know the other person was acting, and when shocked, the actor would scream out. Prior to the tests, the doctors thought 1% or less of people would actually follow through with it. After the test they found 65% of people actually continued through each shock. So the question then was "Are all people capable of such evil?" I'm not sure if I was clear, but the machine was actually a fake, it wasn't shocking anyone.

Often times in the show you hear that people had a sad childhood filled with abandonment or abuse. But the show I watched today showed people who had paired with an "evil" person and were "evil" themselves along with this person and their childhood was filled with love and attention.


New Member
Nancy, I meant to continue, but my daughter and husband were distracting me.

husband and I often have this conversation as well. We hope what we're doing is helping, but some days we just don't see any improvement. You aren't the only one who sees this in your kid, so don't feel that way at all!

I worry about it all the time and just hope that what I'm doing is helping. It's an uphill battle.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
I know we've had this discussion on the CD board many many times. Especially among adoptive parents.

I'm leaning, like Nancy, toward nature being the determining factor in many of my difficult children behaviors/choices/antics.

I also have to take into account the trauma & neglect suffered during kt & wm's preverbal years. That has a huge impact.

This is & always will be a very controversial topic. One I don't step into very often.


Active Member
Too controversial for me to enter into as well - mainly because I have STRONG opinions that I would rather not tap into :wink: (My dad is infamous for blaming everything wrong with his daughters on nature........and it is SO not just unnerves me.) But I will tape the show, it sounds fascinating.

I love the time there was this little mind tease that I heard about, that apparently psychologists use on prison inmates to determine if they are a sociopath or not. Something like (not exactly sure) 98% of people cannot figure out the mind tease, and the 2% that do, are sociopaths. Well, I presented the mind bender to my Ex........and guess who figured it out in under a minute!!!! It was SO not funny! I was already convinced he was a narcissist in the truest form, and that just took me one step closer to believing he really was evil. Scary.


Well-Known Member
ASO that is a very old experiment done years ago. I saw it recently and it is interesting how many people pushed that button. I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions made though, they were told it was an experiment so I'm not sure it concluded they were bad people...but a fascinating study.

What day and time does the show come on?



New Member
I think it comes on, on Sundays, but I'm not positive. We use our DVR for everything, so everything I watch is pre-recorded. This show is too graphic to have kids around or even in ear shot, so I only watch it when everyone is at school and my daughter is at preschool. The crimes they report on are pretty awful.


That study was done back in the '50's or '60's and it proved that people will do what they are told to do even when it seems to go against their better judgment.

Re: nature vs nurture, I think nurture can definitely influence, but nature is the determining factor. For example, 2 people can experience the exact same traumatic event. One walks away seemingly unscathed while the other comes away with PTSD.


Well-Known Member
We, too, have had our son since day one. Each day that goes by, I worry that nature will take over. I'm not sure all we have done and all we will do will ever make the impact that we pray for. Of course, we will never stop trying...


I think nature is stronger. Though acceptance and unconditional love go a loong way in my book.


New Member
I should start another topic about unconditional love. I'm amazed at how many people view this differently.

When we were investigated by CPS years ago, the caseworker said I spoke of all my children hatefully. This really hurt.

I thought about what I said that made her think this and realized that I was just being honest about where my children were once and how far they had come.

I believe unconditional love is when you recognize that someone isn't perfect, but you love them in spite of their imperfections. You can try to help them get past those imperfections and if they don't, you're still there for them, just as you always have been. The good, the bad and the ugly.

It wouldn't be a difficult task to love someone who was perfect, but to truly love them without conditions, is to recognize their shortcomings and love them anyways.

Dogs seem to be the only species I've witnessed being this way time and time again.


I have been reading the responses on this one because I am so torn. I truly think it is a combination. You really can't separate them. Because you can have certain parts from both.


Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful

I also believe it's a combination.

I came from an extremely abusive family. Yet I am the exact opposite of my over controlling abusive mother as is one of my sisters. The other three kids seemed to follow my mother's examples or take them to the next level.

My own kids have led the most boringly normal lives I could manage, with tons of love and probably more attention than they cared for. They have only seen my family members on rare occasions. Yet I have two difficult children.


Active Member
I agree with Wyntersgrace. I am taking a psychology class this term, and wonder how it will go. I can tell the professor is using positive reinforcement on the class, which is good. I try to use it with the kids. It will be interesting.


I would have to agree that it is a combination of both. I just feel that vulnerable, or at risk genes (for lack of a better term) are very difficult to overcome.

ASO, I agree with you that dogs seem to have the unconditional love part down. As my ex used to say, "I can come home late, with whiskey on my breath and lipstick on my coller and her tail will wag just the same". Humans can't come close to that. We put conditions and expectations on our relationships and I guess some of that is just natural. For example I "expect" monogamy and respect in my relationship with husband. If that doesn't happen, I can choose to do something about it, leave whatever. Just because we love and accept someone for who they are doesn't mean we have to put up with a bad situation or bad behavior. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is walk away. It becomes MUCH harder when we talk about our kids. We just have to keep trying, keep re-directing and keep loving. Sometimes we will be disappointed but we never stop loving them. I think the love we have for our kids is about as close as it gets to unconditional love. It sure isn't always easy though.

Don't even get me started on tough love lol.


Roll With It
These "tests" if they truly proved evil or goodness or whatever, would NOT have different results in other cultures. The test with the shock had different results in other cultures/countries. I remember this from several sociology classes and World Cultures classes.

Before I took any of this theater for "science" I would like to see the longitudinal studies to prove it. Longitudinal studies are like the Crest toothpaste study that followed children for several decades to see what their teeth were like.

It is much much too easy to make a test show what you want it to show. This is why statistics are such fun classes to take!! (YES, I SAID FUN. I MEANT FUN).

Anyway, the nature/nurture is not a topic I will address. I do see the program as far more theater than science I would want someone treating my child to use. JMHO.



Former desparate mom
I always got the feeling that not everyone is given the same set of cards at birth. Some have more IQ, some have more emotional maturity, some are survivors. All of these are vague, almost impossible to measure characteristics. Each child has their genetics which give them negative and positive characteristics but they also have individual differences.

I think you have to add self determining factors also.
Isn't that why all sibs are different within the family? There are so many variables to any personality.

Nature is strong but all of us have overcome negative impulses to achieve a goal. Many members overcame horrendous abuse and came out stronger if not scarred to become productive members of society yet their sibs followed a more negative path. What causes that? Is it a higher intelligence level or more modeling of behavior? Do they see something in their family and choose to do things differently?

It's just not that simple to say it's just nature but I agree it has the strongest hold. At least from my experience but I'm not giving up the nurture since it may take into adulthood to see the effects.


Well-Known Member
I think I (and my family) am proof of a combo of nature and nurture.

I have no doubt I got the genes for mental illness from my mom. She had some form of it to be as abusive as she was but then she was so abusive that the nurture was horrible for me which made things even worse. Thats why I have both bipolar and borderline. Hence the nature and the nurture.

Then you look at my kids. I have genetic goop all over them. Corys bipolar and whatever personality disorder he has, Jamies ADHD, Billy's Aspie traits which are most likely from his father, but then again...some of it has to be nurture too. Only one of the kids is not law abiding. Corys my only real problem child.

Was it because of all my problems? Who knows.