Wednesday, July 09, 2008

DNA and Destiny

Has everyone received his or her copy of June’s UTNE Reader? Great. We’re all on the same page then. And if not, you can get on said page here.

So, what did you think of the article “The Nature of Nurture?”

To recap, in that article the author discusses the “effects of maternal stress on childhood development.”

Well, that certainly caught my eye due to the subject matter of JANEOLOGY in which the nature and nurture of one Jane Nelson are explored going back four generations on both sides of her family until a full picture of her genetic inheritance and family traditions emerges. All of this, of course, is explored in an attempt to answer the question – Why did Jane do what she did? Intrigued? (Read a chapter here.)

The Utne Reader article features a neuroscientist’s experiment with mother rats to illustrate what anxious nurturing versus calm nurturing can do to a child. Will a child absorb the tendencies of her mother?

From the article:

"As a graduate student, Francis conducted an experiment in which she swapped pups between a litter of rats bred for calmness and another that was predisposed to anxiety. The genetically calm mothers tended to be better nurturers, licking and grooming their pups more than the anxious mothers did. But when a calm, nurturing mother raised the genetically anxious pup added to her brood, the adoptee switched tendencies. The anxious rat behaved calmly throughout life, performed better in cognitive tests, and was more willing to explore new environments. The calm mother’s behavior, Francis discovered, had caused permanent changes in the operations of the anxious rat’s genes.

Even more stunning: The acquired traits—calmness and nurturing habits—were passed on to the anxious rat’s next generation.In the question of nature versus nurture, we’ve embraced the view that our fates are written in genetic code. The news in recent years has been filled with reports about the isolation of genes said to “cause” everything from diabetes to voter turnout. Increasingly, though, researchers are finding that genes don’t tell the whole story."

Genes don’t tell the whole story, do they? The influence and social relationships in one’s environment has such a profound impact on each individual. This is probably the reason my siblings and I would all report a different childhood experience to you.

So, what do you think about all of this? How much do you think your childhood nurturing impacts who you are today?

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