Nature versus Nurture: Foster Homes and Orphanages
July 5, 2010
For decades, nature versus nurture debate has been an ongoing argument among experts studying life span development. Those who believe that nature is the determining factor of development argue that genes determine an individual's personality, attitudes, and behavior. The other side of the debate among experts is that nurture or experiences and environment have the most influence on development. Santrock states, "nature refers to an organism's biological inheritance, nurture to its environmental experiences" (Santrock, 2007, p. 17). This paper will take the debate a little further by examining whether nature or nurture has more of an influence on children raised in foster homes or orphanages.
Although there is documentation by many experts that children in foster care and institutionalized typically have a have IQs lower than those of children who have never been institutionalized, a new study demonstrates that cognitive impairment may be reversed for institutionalized children. A study conducted by Charles A. Nelson, research director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Children's Hospital Boston and professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School focused on children placed in a Romanian orphanage at birth and then placed in foster homes. The study related how cognitive impairment can be reversed when children were placed in foster homes before the age of two. This is the first study ever conducted about "whether foster care can heal the cognitive, emotional and behavioral wounds of severe early childhood deprivation" (Ghera, Marshall, Fox, Zeanah, Nelson, & Smyke, 2009). Though more studies of this type need to be conducted, this study could demonstrate that nurturing by foster parents can overcome some developmental problems experienced by young children in their early years.
There have also been many recent cases in the news about children adopted from orphanages in foreign countries and their behavior problems. One such case involved a woman who sent her adopted seven-year-old boy back to Russia after he displayed violent tendencies. The boy recounted violent beatings he received at the orphanage but also told Russian officials that the American family treated him badly (Duke, 2010). This case begs the question of whether the boy was subject to violence and no nurturing at the orphanage or whether his behavior could be a result of genetics. Unfortunately, there is no information available on his birth family so it is impossible to know.
Not all orphanages though are terrible places. Nurturing can and does happen in orphanages. The children may not receive the close, personal attention they would obtain if they were at home with two loving parents, but there are many benefits of the system. The children learn work ethics, responsibility, and receive a good education. They do not feel like...