Nature versus Nurture

April 27, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

A few weeks ago my family and I took a weekend trip to Boston.  On the way home, we were assigned seats that had the three of us sitting separately.  My five-year-old daughter had been assigned an exit row seat and the two adults had been seated together at the front of the plane.  Not a problem, we thought – I would just take the exit row seat and The Kid would sit up front with her dad.  When our boarding group was called, we went to get on the plane.  The gate agent (a middle-aged woman) asked “Who is The Kid?”  I indicated that it was, in fact, The Kid but added “But I’m going to take her seat.”

Home Again“Oh,” the gate agent says.  “I’m going to change your seat.”
“Why?” I ask.
“You’re a mother.  If there’s an emergency, your first instinct is going to be to go to your child.”  And she printed up a new boarding pass, still in The Kid’s name, that put me even further away from where The Kid and her dad were sitting.  As she handed it to me she said, “There.  Now you can sit with your baby.”  (I assume that she meant for The Husband to take the distant seat.)  And she tousled The Kid’s hair as we walked by.

When we treat gender and socialization in Introductory Sociology courses, the question of the nature versus nurture debate always comes up.  Which has a stronger influence on our behavior – biology or socialization? Clearly the gate agent and I were coming at this “problem” (which really wasn’t a problem at all) from very different perspectives; she thought that, as a mother, I would be incapable of dealing with the responsibilities of sitting in the exit row when seated apart from my child.  That the “mothering instinct” would win out in an emergency situation.  She was favoring nature over nurture.  I, on the other hand, was simply looking forward to a little extra leg room and and hour and a half of peace and quiet.

When it comes to gender, and in particular to parenting, which do you think is more influential: nature or nurture?


  1. I think that when it comes to parenting nurture is more important. Today, there is a substantial number of single parent families in which one parent has all of the parental responsibilities. In some cases, it it is the father who is the primary care-giver. Nurturing does not only come from a mother. Fathers love and care for their children just as much as mothers and children love both parents. I believe that nature does have much to do with parenting but I think that nurture is more important.

    • In my opinion, I believe that nature and nurture go hand-in-hand and balance each other out in many ways. Of course, a young child feels more comfortable around their mother because they have been in the womb for nine months and feel more secure and loved. Although, as time goes on a child starts to open up and rely on the father because they grow up and feel as if they have a sense of freedom. As a child grows older they lean more towards the parent who nurtures them more. Nature and Nurture each have there own positives and negatives that go along with it but in many cases rely on each other.

  2. I believe that nature and nurture of a child go hand in hand. I feel as if you cannot properly nature a young child in their environment, without nurturing and giving them the love that they need to survive in the environment which they live in. in many cases today, their are single parent families trying to be both the maternal and paternal roles for their child. I believe from my experience that the love and care can come from both the mother and father. I believe they are both important and work together in family situations.

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