The Nature-Versus-Nurture Controversy and Its Implications for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Cory Shulman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Early attempts to explain child development and infant mental health focused on the biological makeup of the child and the child’s experiences. This gave rise to the “nature versus nurture” controversy, which is the focus of this chapter. Research methodologies employed to determine the proportionate contributions of nature and nurture in outcome behavior are presented. A survey of models used to understand individual change over time reflects the move from linear models to interactive multilevel dynamic systems models, when addressing the nature-nurture issue. The chapter then concentrates on behavioral genetics, which aims to understand the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of individual differences in child development. Because behavioral genetics deals with individual variance, its findings often have practical implications for intervention, and the field of infant mental health is rapidly assimilating conclusions from research in this area. Neither nature nor nurture will provide ultimate truths or be an end unto itself; rather, each can modify the influences of the other and both must be integrated in order to explain the complexities of development.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationChildren's Well-Being
Subtitle of host publicationIndicators and Research
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameChildren's Well-Being: Indicators and Research
ISSN (Print)1879-5196
ISSN (Electronic)1879-520X

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Diathesis-stress model
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Individual variance
  • Nature-nurture controversy


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