Genetic Health Nature Vs Nurture

Nature vs. nurture: Are people the product of genetics and heredity, or does their environment determine their talents, personalities and health? Researchers on both sides of the “nature vs. nurture debate” have passionately argued for one or the other for centuries. Studies into the importance of environment versus heredity often focus their attention on birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children.

If genetics and heredity determine who we are, then adopted children should have personalities, health problems and character traits similar to their birth parents. If environment is the major influence, adopted children would resemble their adoptive parents more than their birth parents.

Research has revealed that many inherited diseases have genetic components, and there is speculation that heredity may play a role in intelligence, skills and talents. Nature alone, however, isn’t the whole story.

You may, for instance, inherit a talent for music from your father. Unless your environment provides you with opportunity to express that talent, however, you may never be able to capitalize on your inherited ability.

The same principles apply to inherited disease. Adopted children may inherit an increased risk of a disease from their birth parents, but whether or not that disease actually develops often depends on lifestyle and environment.

The answer to the nature vs. nurture argument, then, appears to be twofold. Yes, our heredity and genetic makeup heavily impact our physical and mental well-being. Our environment and lifestyle, however, often determines which inherited traits blossom and which never come to fruition.

Adopted Children and Inherited Disease

Many people discover they are at risk of inherited disease through their family’s medical history, and can make lifestyle or environment changes that reduce the risk of developing the disease.

For instance, if your grandfather and uncle both suffered from inherited heart disease, you can assume your risk of the inherited disease is higher than normal. By eating a heart healthy diet and making other lifestyle changes, you may be able to avoid the disease, or at least prevent it from developing until later in life.

Adopted children usually don’t have access to their birth family’s medical history, and have no idea what types of inherited disease may lurk in their family tree. The possibility of inherited disease could be quite high, but adopted individuals would have no idea of their risk.

Genetic testing for inherited disease can provide adopted children with the medical answers they lack. The list of genetic markers linked to inherited disease grows at a steady rate, and genetic testing can identify a wide range of inherited disease markers. Adopted children and their families can make health care and lifestyle decisions based on their genetic profiles.

Inherited disease risk isn’t the only reason adopted children choose genetic testing. Many adopted children eventually want to find out about their birth parents and ancestry. Privacy laws and sealed adoption records often make it difficult, if not impossible, for adoptees to find any genealogical information.

While genetic genealogy is no substitute for traditional genealogy, genetics testing can provide adopted children with important information on their ancestry.


Adamac, C.; Pierce, W. (2000). The encyclopedia of adoption. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the Web site:

Sorensen, T.; Holst, C.; Stunkard, A. (January 1998). Adoption study of environmental modifications of the genetic influences on obesity. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the Nature Web site: