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What shapes us more: our DNA, or the way we’re raised? This debate, commonly recognized as “nature versus nurture,” has drawn disagreement for thousands of years. So which one matters more? Emerging genetic research indicates that the scale may be tipping toward biology – but not all trust the research. Proponents of the “nature” camp argue it is DNA that determines who we are, as evidenced by identical twins and triplets who are separated at birth and, once reunited, show remarkable similarities despite different upbringings. Rather than trying to identify the perfect parenting style, they argue, caregivers should look to their children’s DNA to identify natural strengths and challenges to promote overall health and well-being. But others strongly disagree, saying that parenting is very important, and the individuals who rear us influence our development, growth, and, ultimately, our lives. The “nurture” camp also points to studies that show how beliefs and behaviors are not innate, as evidenced by stark differences in the expression of adolescence and other life stages across different cultures. Are they right? Or is parenting overrated?

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For:

Robert Plomin

5 Items
Robert Plomin
  • Professor of Behavioral Genetics, King’s College London
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“DNA is more important to a child’s personality, exam results and future income than the way they are brought up – but that’s good news, says geneticist Robert Plomin.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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“Two new books from intellectual giants Robert Plomin and Nicholas Christakis revive the “nature vs. nurture” debate about what makes people different from one another.”

Thursday, August 1, 2019
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“In a new book likely to rekindle fierce controversy, psychologist Robert Plomin argues that genes largely shape our personalities and that the latest science is too compelling to ignore.”

Saturday, September 29, 2018
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“Robert Plomin on the IQ test, genetic intellectual predispositions, and the Flynn Effect”

Sunday, August 27, 2017
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“In Blueprint, Robert Plomin draws on a lifetime of research to show how our understanding of DNA will revolutionise how we parent, the choices we make, and who we are: teaching us to be more tolerant of ourselves and each other in the process.”

Friday, September 21, 2018
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For:

Nancy Segal

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Nancy Segal
  • Professor of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton & Director, Twin Studies Center
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“Studying twins has long offered insight into the interplay of nature and nurture. Epigenetics is the next frontier.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
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“There is a method in twin research called co-twin control. It happens naturally, experimentally, or by chance when two identical twins have different experiences. In fact, every identical twin pair is a “mini-experiment,” because their environments before and after birth are not exactly the same.”

Monday, July 17, 2017
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“Twins tell us about our humanity - who we are and where we came from, says Nancy Segal. In her fascinating and entertaining talk, we learn that genes play a much bigger role in our decisions and behaviour than scientists previously believed.”

Friday, December 8, 2017
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Against:

Paige Harden

3 Items
Paige Harden
  • Psychology Professor, University of Texas
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“Parenting is often conceptualized in terms of its effects on offspring. However, children may also play an active role in influencing the parenting they receive. Simple correlations between parenting and child outcomes may be due to parent-to-child causation, child-to-parent causation, or some combination of the two.”

Sunday, October 7, 2018
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“The phenomenon of genetic nurture underscores that the results of genetic association studies cannot be interpreted as support for a biologically determinist account of human individual differences, as most social scientists who work with genetic data have stressed.”

Friday, January 26, 2018
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“Robert Plomin argues that ‘only DNA matters’, making it possible to ‘predict your future from birth’. It’s an outlandish claim that raises many ethical questions.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018
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Against:

Ann Pleshette Murphy

3 Items
Ann Pleshette Murphy
  • Author & Parenting Expert
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“’Ideas of what makes a good dad include for most men, even today, bringing home the bacon and making a good living,’ said Ann Pleshette Murphy, former parenting correspondent for ‘Good Morning America’ and former editor-in-chief of Parents magazine.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

“For that, we spoke to Ann Pleshette Murphy a parenting therapist, author of The Secret of Play, and former editor-in-chief of Parents Magazine about what parents do to raise empathetic kids. She offered five specific behaviors parents of empathetic kids regularly exhibit.”

Friday, April 19, 2019

“Ann Pleshette Murphy is President of Zero to Three, a national non-profit organization that provides parents, professionals and policy makers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development. She was also parenting contributor for “Good Morning America” and hosted “Parenting Perspectives with Ann Pleshette Murphy,” airing weekly. In this talk, she shares her insights on how children develop early mathematics skills.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Background

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“The multibillion-pound parenting industry tells us we can all shape our children to be joyful, resilient and successful. But what if it’s all bunk? Intelligence Squared brought together a panel of experts to explore just how important parenting is.”

Thursday, April 25, 2019
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Stuart Ritchie, Robert Plomin, Susan Pawlby, Ann Pleshette Murphy

“In the past, debates over the relative contributions of nature versus nurture often took a very one-sided approach, with one side arguing that nature played the most important role and the other side suggesting that it was nurture that was the most significant. Today, most experts recognize that both factors play a critical role. Not only that, but they also realize that nature and nurture interact in important ways all throughout life.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019
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Kendra Cherry

“Genetics and genomics both play roles in health and disease. Genetics refers to the study of genes and the way that certain traits or conditions are passed down from one generation to another. Genomics describes the study of all of a person's genes (the genome).”

Friday, September 7, 2018
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National Human Genome Research Institute

For the Motion

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“We’re all terrified we’re going to mess up our kids. The science says we probably won’t have much impact at all.”

Friday, March 16, 2018
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Daniel Engber

“Our survival instinct should undercut morality – but our mammalian brains pulled off an amazing evolutionary trick, says neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland”

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
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Patricia Churchland

“A researcher argues that peers are much more important than parents, that psychologists underestimate the power of genetics, and that we have a lot to learn from Asian classrooms.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009
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Jonah Lehrer and Judith Rich Harris

“There was a time where nature was all dominant, and then the pendulum swung back to nurture during the era of the “frigid mother.” In the 1960s and 1970s despite the ascendant anti-hereditarian paradigm in the social sciences the rapid emergence of the “working mom” through female labor force participation resulted in less supervision in kids in households where both parents were working.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011
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Razib Khan

Against the Motion

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“Alphabet's longevity lab Calico trawled through Ancestry's massive genealogy database to study human longevity—and found that DNA matters less than people have long believed.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
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Megan Molteni

More similarities than dissimilarities in the parenting of both parents emerged, although adding psychological control slightly enlarged the differences between the scores of mothers and fathers.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Sofie Kuppens and Eva Ceulemans

“Studies suggest that kids thrive when parents are less bossy and punitive, and more focused on shaping good behavior through reasoning and positive emotions.”

Monday, July 1, 2019
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Gwen Dewar

“Twin studies tend to involve better-educated parents, so they might be missing effects at the lower end of the distribution. Studies that look at changes to compulsory-schooling laws, by contrast, tend to focus on this lower end and find stronger effects: Forcing someone to stay in school a little longer seems to have good effects not just on them, but also on their kids in the future, another sign that familial resemblance isn’t purely genetic.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Robert VerBruggen

Twins Studies and Human Genetics

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“In a comprehensive review of twin studies worldwide, which was published in Nature Genetics in 2015, researchers found that on average, environment and genetics have a 50/50 influence on a person's traits and disease. But certain conditions like bipolar disorder rely more heavily on genetics.”

Friday, August 3, 2018
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Charlotte Hu

“Because identical twins are the result of a single egg that splits into two, they share the same DNA and provide a perfect laboratory to answer age-old questions about the roles of genes and environment: Why does one twin get breast cancer and not the other? How does obesity increase one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes? Do genetics really determine whether you are more likely to own a gun or go to college?”

Saturday, September 29, 2018
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Sarah Elizabeth Richards

“While the genetic difference between individual humans today is minuscule – about 0.1%, on average – study of the same aspects of the chimpanzee genome indicates a difference of about 1.2%. The bonobo (Pan paniscus), which is the close cousin of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), differs from humans to the same degree. The DNA difference with gorillas, another of the African apes, is about 1.6%. Most importantly, chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans all show this same amount of difference from gorillas.”

Thursday, September 26, 2019
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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Parenting

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“Annual child-rearing expenses varied considerably by household income level and generally increased with age of the child. For a child in a two-child (the standard in the United States), married-couple family with before-tax income less than $59,200, annual expenses ranged from $9,330 to $9,980 (depending on age of the child). For the same type of households with before-tax income between $59,200 and $107,400, annual expenses ranged from $12,350 to $13,900 (depending on age of the child). And for the same type of households with before-tax income over $107,400, annual expenses ranged from $19,380 to $23,380 (depending on age of the child). These income groups represent the lower, middle, and upper thirds of the income distribution.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
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Mark Lino, Kevin Kuczynski, Nestor Rodriguez and TusaRebecca Schap

“Over the past six years, investors across the country have poured $500 million into companies playing in what can be thought of as “the new mom economy” — all the apps, gadgets, products and services targeting first-time Millennial parents with a child under the age of one.”

Sunday, May 19, 2019
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Tanya Klich

“This is why humans have “parenting”: there is a uniquely enormous gap between the human infant and the mature animal. That gap must be bridged, and it’s difficult to resist the conclusion that there must be many specific things adults need to get right in order to bridge it. This, in turn, is why there are parenting advice manuals – hundreds and hundreds of them, serving as an index of the changing ways we have worried about how we might mess up our children.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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Oliver Burkeman

“Modern parents have been sold a bill of goods by business leaders who want the best labor force in the history of the world, but don't want to pay for it.”

Monday, August 5, 2019
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Patrick A. Coleman

“But it's safe to say that your kids' long-term fate will not be meaningfully affected by the speed and timing of potty training, the brand of educational videos you purchase, or the precise tone of voice in which you discipline. A large proportion of the Parenting Industrial Complex isn't about kids — it's about generating content for nervous parents who feel like they should be doing something.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018
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David Roberts

“Despite these challenges, researchers have posited that there are links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children. These effects, some suggest, carry over into adult behavior.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
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Kendra Cherry

“Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Professor of Child Health and Development at Harvard University, shares his important play tips to boost your child’s brain. In the first 1,000 days of life, a baby’s brain forms 1,000 new connections every second. Just 15 minutes of play can spark thousands of brain.”

Friday, January 25, 2019
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Dr. Jack Shonkoff

“But parents can help children become more willing to work hard, more perseverant, even more creative, he said. ‘We have this enormous amount of research on what kind of parenting produces the best effect.’”

Monday, May 9, 2016
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Perri Klass

“While debates about the best way to raise kids roars on, we can at least turn to history to see how many childrearing fads simply come and go. Hot housing, four-hour feeds, tiger mom, eagle mom, etc etc.”

Monday, October 7, 2019
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Edward Shepard

“We tell ourselves we are preparing our sons to fight (literally and figuratively), to compete in a world and economy that’s brutish and callous. The sooner we can groom them for this dystopian future, the better off they’ll be. But the Harvard psychologist Susan David insists the opposite is true: ‘Research shows that people who suppress emotions have lower-level resilience and emotional health.’”

Thursday, June 15, 2017
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Andrew Reiner

“Many families of killers are left to sort through their confusion and shock as some assume they are to blame.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2019
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Joe Pinsker

In the Classroom

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“SES affects overall human functioning, including our physical and mental health. Low SES and its correlates, such as lower educational achievement, poverty and poor health, ultimately affect our society. Inequities in health distribution, resource distribution, and quality of life are increasing in the United States and globally.”

Monday, October 7, 2019
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American Psychological Association

“Minority students often perform better on standardized tests, have improved attendance, and are suspended less frequently (which may suggest either different degrees of behavior or different treatment, or both) when they have at least one same-race teacher.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017
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David Figlio

“In more than 700 communities across the country, teachers are supporting students of all ages — and their parents — outside the classroom. Even for the youngest children, the benefits can be profound.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019
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Christina Caron and Katherine Zoepf

“Yet adopted children and their parents often encounter unexpected difficulties, especially when the child gets to school. Our analysis of newly-released data from the U.S. Department of Education shows just how prevalent learning and behavioral issues are among adopted students in elementary, middle, and high school.”

Monday, March 26, 2018
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Nicholas Zill and W. Bradford Wilcox

“Researchers have found that a child’s genes significantly influence their long-term performance in school – beyond even intelligence. How can this information be used to help students?”

Friday, September 7, 2018
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Kaili Rimfeld and Margherita Malanchini

“We need to take comfort from the existence of scientifically-grounded interventions, which in the hands of teachers with sufficient resources, can make a difference to the prospects of students who initially find the going in particular subjects tough.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016
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Brian Byrne, Katrina Grasby, and Richard Olson

“Existing behavior-genetic research implicates substantial influence of heredity and modest influence of shared environment on reading achievement and reading disability.”

Monday, August 1, 2011
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Robert M. Kirkpatrick, Lisa N. Legrand, William G. Iacono, and Matt McGue

“Dyslexia, the most common learning disability, affects how students process and link spoken and written language. Educators and researchers have known for nearly a century that the reading disorder can run in families, but in the last 15 years, scientists have uncovered much more of the physical evidence for such a link.”

Monday, September 10, 2018
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Sarah D. Sparks