The nature vs. nurture debate has never been more heated than it currently is among psychologists and child development experts. One definitive piece of information has resulted from these years of study. That is, that the way children are raised directly affects the physical shape of their brain. Every interaction a child has, whether good or bad, will result in the formation of pathways within the brain. These pathways connect to shape the individual person that your child will become. Obviously, a pattern of abusive or neglectful behavior will shape a child’s brain differently than a pattern of nurturing and love.
A study posted in the February 2009 edition of Nature Neuroscience states that in addition to changing and shaping the brain, interaction patterns also affect the way a person’s genes are expressed. For more than ten years, researchers have known that affectionate mothering alters gene expression in animals, but it was not until recently that we were able to see proof of this in humans as well. Research has shown that children who are exposed to patterns of trauma and abuse are biologically altered to make them more sensitive to stress.
While scientists are still speculating as to why some people are more easily able to regulate stress than others, it is now commonly accepted that experiences do play a significant role in the development of genes. Previous generations would have looked at an angry child with the attitude of ‘they were born that way’, but scientific research does not allow for this excuse to be made anymore. Scientifically, we have proven that raising our children in loving, nurturing environments will produce loving, nurturing adults, who will in turn raise loved, nurtured children of their own.
The cycle starts with you. Are you doing the best you can for your child?