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Analyze the nature versus nurture debate in the context of human behavior.


Socialisation and the creation of social identity

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Briefly introduce the nature vs. nurture debate. Define both concepts and their relevance to understanding human behavior. Mention you will be analyzing both sides of the debate, using sociological studies as examples.

Nature: The Influence of Biology
Explain the biological arguments. Discuss the role of genetics, hormones, and brain structure in shaping behavior. Provide examples of studies that support the influence of nature, such as twin studies on intelligence or research on genetic predispositions towards certain personality traits.

Nurture: The Power of Socialization
Present the sociological perspective. Discuss how social interaction, culture, and learning shape individuals. Include concepts like primary and secondary socialization, social norms, and the role of agents of socialization (family, peers, media). Provide examples of studies that highlight the impact of environmental factors on behavior, such as research on feral children or the impact of socioeconomic status on educational attainment.

The Interplay of Nature and Nurture
Acknowledge the limitations of a binary approach. Explain that the debate is not "either/or" but rather a complex interaction. Introduce the concept of epigenetics and how environment can influence gene expression. Use examples like studies on childhood trauma and its impact on later life outcomes.

Briefly summarize the main arguments for both nature and nurture in understanding human behavior. Re-emphasize the complexity of the debate and the need to consider both biological and social factors. Consider ending with a thought-provoking question or statement about the implications of this debate for society.

Free Essay 

The nature versus nurture debate is a long-standing discussion in various fields, including sociology, psychology, and biology. It centers around the question of which factors – biological inheritance (nature) or environmental influences (nurture) – are more crucial in shaping human behavior. This debate remains relevant today as it seeks to understand the complexities of human development and the factors that contribute to individual differences. This essay will analyze both sides of the debate, drawing upon sociological studies to illuminate the intricate interplay between nature and nurture.

Nature: The Influence of Biology
Proponents of the nature argument emphasize the role of biological factors in influencing behavior. This includes genetics, hormones, and brain structure. For example, twin studies have consistently shown that identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, exhibit greater similarities in traits like intelligence, personality, and even susceptibility to certain mental illnesses compared to fraternal twins, who share only 50% of their genes (Bouchard et al., 1990). This suggests that genetic inheritance plays a significant role in shaping these traits.

Furthermore, research on hormones, such as testosterone, has shown a correlation between hormonal levels and certain behaviors, including aggression and risk-taking (Dabbs et al., 1995). Additionally, studies on brain structure and function have revealed that differences in brain regions, such as the amygdala (associated with emotion) can influence emotional regulation and susceptibility to anxiety disorders (Raine, 2000). These findings support the notion that biological factors can significantly contribute to human behavior.

Nurture: The Power of Socialization
The nurture perspective, prevalent within sociology, argues that human behavior is primarily shaped by social interaction and environmental factors. Socialization, the process through which individuals learn the norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors of their society, plays a pivotal role in shaping identity and behavior. This socialization occurs through various agents, including family, peers, school, religion, and media.

For instance, primary socialization, which occurs within the family, is fundamental in shaping early childhood development, teaching language, social skills, and cultural values (Parsons, 1959). Secondary socialization, occurring in later life, expands on these foundations, introducing individuals to the norms and expectations of broader society through educational institutions, workplaces, and peer groups. Research on feral children, who grew up without significant human interaction, highlights the crucial role of socialization in developing language, social skills, and even cognitive abilities (Curtiss, 1977).

Socioeconomic status (SES) is another key environmental factor that impacts behavior. Studies have shown that children from lower-SES backgrounds are more likely to experience poverty, violence, and educational disadvantage, which can lead to poorer health outcomes, higher crime rates, and lower social mobility (Sampson & Laub, 1993). These findings underscore the significant influence that social environment can have on individuals' life chances and behaviors.

The Interplay of Nature and Nurture
Despite the strong arguments for both nature and nurture, it is crucial to acknowledge that the debate is not an "either/or" proposition. Human behavior is a complex interplay of both biological and social factors. The concept of epigenetics, which studies how environmental factors can influence gene expression, highlights this interplay. For example, research has shown that childhood trauma can have lasting effects on gene expression, increasing vulnerability to mental health issues in later life (McEwen & Stellar, 1993).

Furthermore, while genetic predispositions may exist for certain traits, their manifestation is often influenced by environmental factors. Individuals may inherit a genetic predisposition for anxiety, but their actual experience of anxiety may be shaped by factors such as parenting styles, social support networks, and stressful life events. This dynamic interaction between nature and nurture makes it impossible to isolate the impact of one factor without considering the other.

The nature versus nurture debate continues to generate much discussion and research. While both biological factors and environmental influences contribute significantly to human behavior, the debate underscores the complexity of human development. The evidence suggests that the relationship between nature and nurture is not one of simple cause and effect, but rather a dynamic and intricate interplay. This understanding has implications for various aspects of society, including education, healthcare, and social policy. By acknowledging the influence of both biology and social factors, we can develop more effective interventions and create a more equitable society for all.


Bouchard, T. J., Jr., Lykken, D. T., McGue, M., Segal, N. L., & Tellegen, A. (1990). Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart. <i>Science, 250</i>(4978), 223-228.

Curtiss, S. (1977). <i>Genie: A psycholinguistic study of a modern-day "wild child"</i>. Academic Press.

Dabbs, J. M., Jr., Hargrove, M. W., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1995). Testosterone, crime, and aggression: Are they related? <i>Aggressive Behavior, 21</i>(1), 93-107.

McEwen, B. S., & Stellar, E. (1993). Stress and the hippocampus: A reciprocal relationship. <i>Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 5</i>(2), 105-109.

Parsons, T. (1959). <i>The social system</i>. Free Press.

Raine, A. (2000). The neuropsychology of aggression and violence. <i>Annual Review of Psychology, 51</i>, 321-352.

Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). <i>Crime in the making: Pathways and turning points through life</i>. Harvard University Press.

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