Chapter 3. Influence of Heredity and Environment

Heredity: Meaning and Definition

Human beings have a common genetic structure but all humans carry different sets of genetic traits that they get from their parents. This includes eye colour, hair colour, body type, height, skin colour etc. Therefore, heredity can be defined as the transmission of genetic traits from parents to their children. As per Peterson, heredity may be defined as what one gets from his ancestral stock through his parents. This includes nature, character traits, looks, intelligence and cognitive skills.

Principle of Heredity

All traits depend upon both genetic and environmental factors. Heredity and environment interact to produce their effects. This means that the way genes act depends on the environment in which they act.
• In the same way, the effects of environment depend on the genes with which they work. Heredity provides the basis for the development of human personality.
• Heredity is what a person is born with. It is a specific combination of genes we inherit and is shown in characteristics like height and certain habits.
• Environment includes all aspects of the surroundings i.e. human and non- human such as parents, family, friends, school, neighbourhood, work place and socio-economic conditions to which the individual is exposed since birth.
• These factors influence the development of an individual. The child’s capabilities/potential is determined by heredity. But, the extent to which an individual develops these capabilities depends upon the opportunities in the environment.

Role of Heredity and Environment in Development

Two most important factors in children development are ‘Heredity’ and ‘Environment’ where the child spends most of the time majorly being in pre-school and otherwise at home with family and friends. These two are very important considerations playing vital
role in childhood development. Heredity is the transfer of traits from one generation to another with the help of chromosomes. Physical and mental (emotional) are two traits together play a significant role in the transfer of total personality from parents to off springs. These are

Physical Traits

Instances of physical traits are height, body structure, shapes of different parts of body, heart-trouble, diabetes, baldness, asthma etc.

Mental Traits

Mental and emotional traits are intelligence, memory power, interests and talent in music, art, literature, dancing etc even cruel nature, cool-headed nature, etc come under these traits.
• By environment, we mean all those physical and social factors that affect and influence the development of the child like the home, the family, the neighbourhood, the companions, the school, the teachers, the political and religious agencies and the society in general.
• No individual is the same at maturity as he was born. Any or all of the environmental components can affect the health of the person.
• Everything that influences the child apart from himself from what he inherited from his parents is his environment.
• Both, heredity and environment together, play equally important role in the formation of human nature. However, in some cases it has been proved that heredity plays more significant role in children development being in pre-school or at home.
• At the same time, there have been evidences showing that in some other cases environment has played a significant role in formation of human nature. Thus, as parents, we have both the factors in our hands and both the parents can together make the best efforts to improve the child.
• As pre-primary teachers, we have no control on the child’s heredity. Yet, the environment which would promote the healthy development of the child, can be controlled.

Laws of Heredity

Three important laws of heredity, are as follows
1. Like Produces Like According to this law, human being will produce human beings, just as a cat will produce a cat.
2. Only Certain Traits are Transformed According to this law, the dominant traits get transferred more easily than the recessive traits.
3. Convergence of Two Lives According to this law, both the parents play an equally important role in converging their traits to their offsprings.

Effects of Heredity

Heredity plays an important role in the development of child. It also affects various aspect of child. They are given below

1. On Physical Characteristics

• This refers to the looks or physical features. A child inherits biological heredity that is transferred through genes and chromosomes. For instance, parents with a good height and healthy physique generally have tall and strong children. Thus, offsprings will resemble their parents.
• A gene is a primary basis of heredity. It is a section of DNA that comprises coded instructions. Therefore, child development is largely affected by heredity factors. Twins and siblings will have similar genetic formations, but the coded instructions will have modifications.
• The offspring may not resemble its parents and thus, there are variations. Therefore, every individual is unique in some way or the other. For instance, colour of eyes may be different or children may not be as tall as their parents are.

2. On Intelligence

• Specific genetic traits are responsible for the intelligence of a child and they associate IQ levels of parents and siblings. The ability of effective learning, analysis and decision-making capacity develops from the level of intelligence that a child inherits. According to HH Goddard, intelligent parents will have intelligent children while dull parents will have dull children.
• The mental abilities inherited by a child determines how the child develops emotionally. The kind of emotional development in a child then affects the way a child develops his social, moral and linguistic skills.

3. On Character

• A child inherits the character traits from its parents. According to Dugwell, how a person’s character/nature develops is also dependent on what the child inherits from its parents.
• The moral development of a child is a part of development and is deep rooted in human nature. Therefore, parents pass on some moral values to their offspring.

Significance/Importance of Heredity for Education

Important significane or importance of heredity or of education are as follows
• Heredity lays the foundation for the intellectual potential or ability of a child, thus showing its inborn talents. Every child inherits different types of intelligences from its parents.
• Some inherit analytical intelligence, others are highly creative, while some others may have more of practical intelligence. Parents and teachers should therefore, observe and identify their children’s potential domains and then nurture and develop these areas in such children.
• Heredity determines maturation, which is a factor affecting learning. Unfolding of genetically directed changes as the child develops basic motor skills like walking, running and jumping emerge primarily as a result of neurological (brain) development, increased strength and increased muscular control-changes that are largely determined by inherited biological instructions.
• Heredity determines personality i.e. temperament. Children seem to have distinct temperaments almost from birth.
• Temperament of an individual dictates general activity level, adaptability, persistence, adventurousness, shyness, inhibition level, irritability and distractibility. Temperament greatly affects learning.

Environment: Meaning & Definition

Environment is a sum total of our surroundings. The word environment has been derived from a French word ‘Environia’ meaning ‘to surround’. It refers to the environment in which organisms live. Human beings interact with their environment more vigorously than other living beings. Human beings are surrounded by air, water, vegetation, mountains, plateaus, rivers and other objects. All these together make up the environment.
• In other words, environment refers to those surroundings that surround living beings from all sides and affect their life in total.
• Environment plays an important role in the development of human life. Contribution of environment is equally important to the development of human life, as is the contribution of heredity. So, some psychologists call psychological environment as social heredity.
• Behavioural psychologists have laid more emphasis on environment as compared to heredity. Definitions of environment given by various thinkers are explained below
— According to Ann Nastase, ‘‘Environment is that factor which affects a human being besides his life’’.
— According to Holland and Douglas, ‘‘The term environment is used to describe in aggregate all the external forces, influences and conditions which affect the life, nature, behaviour and the growth, development and maturity of living organism”.
— According to Gisbert, ‘‘Environment is anything immediately surrounding an object and exerting a direct influence on it’’.

Effects of Environment

Environment affects the development of a child in various ways. These are listed below

1. Physical Dissimilarities

• Though physical attributes are mostly hereditary, but effect of environment can be clearly seen. For instance, people living in mountainous areas are short structured whereas people living in plains are generally tall and strong.
• For many generations, it has been observed that change of location affects a person’s physical structure.

2. Effect on Superiority of Races

• Some races are intellectually superior to others not because of heredity but because of environment. These races are able to score better on tests as they are equipped with a better intellectual, cultural and social environment.
• If a son of a great leader is left in an incompatible environment devoid of good intellectual and cultural atmosphere, he will not be able to become great like his father.

3. Effect on Personality

• Personality development or modulation depends more on environment than heredity factors. Any person can evolve into a better human being if he gets a proper environment. It is a fact that personalities change due to difference in environment.
• We come across many examples near us where people, who are born in low income or poor families, have been able to rise due to better environment which enabled their capabilities to work to the full potential.
Newman, Freeman and Holzinger studied 20 pairs of twins who were kept in different environments to prove this. They kept one child of pair of twins in a rural area on a farm and the other of the pair was nurtured in an urban area full of social and cultural facilities. When both children of these pairs grew up, a considerable difference was found in their personality traits.
• The child of the pair, who was brought up in a rural background, was found to be discourteous, full of anxiety and less intelligent. On the contrary, the child of the same pair, who was brought up in an urban environment, was found to be more sophisticated, carefree and more intelligent.

4. Effect on Mental Growth

• The psychologist Gardon is of the view that mental growth slows down in human beings in the absence of a proper social and cultural atmosphere. He conducted a study on children living in riverine areas.
• The environment of these children was bad and away from good effects of society. The study revealed that these children’s mental development was also hampered due to their environment.

5. Environment’s Multiple Effects on Growing Children

• Environment plays a crucial role in the development of physical, mental, social and emotional aspects of any human being.
• The study of a child, who was reared in deep forests, shows that he was reared among wild animals. Some hunters caught hold of this child in 1979. At that time, he was 11 or 12 years.
• His physical structure became like that of animals. He used to walk with his hands and legs and eat raw meat.
• He was not able to think and speak like humans. All the efforts to educate and make him civilised failed.
Nature v/s Nurture l Nature refers to the genetic influence or the traits inherited by a child from its parents. Nurture is all about the upbringing of a child or the environment in which a child grows. l Philosophers like Plato and Socrates suggest that a child is born with intelligence, talents and skills that is regardless of environmental influences. l Thinkers like John Locke believed that the mind starts like a blank state and knowledge is determined by experiences. However, the impact of nature (heredity) and environment (nurture) on child development is equally essential. l Heredity begins the moment an ovum is fertilised while the role of environment begins with the birth of the child, but both play their roles throughout the life of a child. For example, a wrestler has a strong body type due to genetic influences but his fitness and stamina depend upon the food and surroundings in which he lives and practises.

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