Genes and Environment: What Has the Strongest Pull?

As your baby gets older, you are probably seeing more of yourself in him or her. Maybe it’s their eyes, or their hair color. Or maybe it’s something deeper; the way they react to new situations, or the level of energy they have.

How much of that is genetic, and how much of it is simply related to how you are raising your baby? What is the role of genes and environment?

Parents of adoption find themselves asking these questions all the time. But even if your baby is biologically yours, there are pieces of him or her that are clearly a result of your genetic contribution, and others that may have more to do with environment.

So what has the strongest pull?

The truth is, even science doesn’t know that answer. At least, not completely. But what we do know seems to indicate that genetics can provide a roadmap for your child’s potential, while their environment may contribute to how far they travel on that map.

Obviously, genetics contribute to the physical stuff; hair and eye color, skin tone, height. All of this is pretty heavily influenced by genes.

But those same genes can also play a role in personality characteristics, as well as things like academic, musical, or athletic abilities.

That’s where a genetic predisposition may come into play—a guideline for what your child’s potential may be.

Their environment can then have an influence over whether or not they meet their full potential. So a child with a genetic potential for high cognitive achievement, for instance, might reach the height of that potential if they are in an environment where cognitive growth is encouraged, and where they feel safe and taken care of to the extent that they are able to focus completely on those endeavors.

On the other hand, if they are exposed to environmental toxins that could inhibit learning, or if they are victims of neglect or abuse, they may never have the ability to reach that full potential.

Environment can also certainly shape likes and interests, which may play a role in which endeavors your child pursues. Some of that you have control over, and some may be influenced by outside factors.

The point is, nothing is predetermined for your child at birth. And even with genetic potential, there can be a wide range of possibilities that environment can influence.

Both play a role in who your child will become. Which is just one of the many reasons why creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for your child to grow in is important.

Written by Leah Campbell, infertility advocate, adoptive mama, writer and editor. Find me @sifinalaska on Twitter.  

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general informational basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.