2 September 2014

Influence of Heredity & Environment

  CTET Exam Notes : Child Development and Pedagogy (CDP) 

Topic : Influence of Heredity & Environment


Really speaking, a human being's personality is a product of his/her genetic endowment and cultural environment.
As Cole and Bruce described, "from the moment of conception it grows 'whole', having within itself possibilities of developing into a dynamic, active, walking, talking, thinking, feeling human being, provided that the environment furnishes the raw materials and the appropriate conditions of stimulation."

Differences in individual personalities are caused because 
(i) the possibilities within itself are different, and (ii) the provision of raw materials and appropriate conditions of stimulation by the environment vary widely. 
Guilford, for example charted the magnitude of similarity of pairs of children with respects of intelligence (IQ). similarity in heredity varied from the same child (tested twice), to identical twins to only chance similarity in a pair of unrelated children.

Must Read: Concept of development and its relationship with learning


Genetics, or the science of heredity. is a discipline contributing specific details of the impact of heredity on living beings. Baller and Charles have compiles some general statements about the inheritance of character that are relevant to behaviour of personality. Basically, we inherit "a tendency toward a certain structure" and "a tendency to function in certain ways". Specially these include the following.

Tendency towards a certain structure includes the following behaviours.

  • A tendency to achieve a certain body-weight.
  • A tendency towards a general body-type (i.e. skeletal structure, proportion of fat and muscle-tissue, and the length of limbs).
  • Sex
  • Appearance, i.e., skin, hair texture and colour, eye shape and colour, nose shape, ear shape, head shape.
  • Internal structure, for example the size of the heart and lungs in proportion to the body, determining the capacity for prolonged physical effort.

Tendency to function in certain ways includes the following behaviours :

  • Natural response i.e. functioning of the nervous system, intelligence, predisposition to react slow or quickly.
  • Sensory efficiency i.e. keenness of vision, range of hearing, sensitivity of touch and smell,
  • Operation of the "vegetative system" i.e., heart and circulatory system, digestive system, reproductory system, etc.
  • Functioning of the endocrine system, is., glandular secretions, e.g., the thyroids control the metabolic rate, the pituitary controlling growth, gonads controlling the sex-drive and sex characteristics and the adrenals controlling emotional "stir-ups".
  •  Rate of physical growth
  • Predisposition to certain characteristics.

Finally a note must be added that the effects of heredity on temperamental quality are not fatalistic as these are on the structural tendency. Medical and surgical interventions are being invented continuously to bring the functioning of hereditary systems and mechanisms under control. Plastic surgery, for example, brings change in the inherited  appearance while hormonal treatment changes the functioning of endocrine glands.

Environmental Factors

Technically, environmental factors start exerting their influence through the uterine environment during the prenatal stage. The dietary habits, the health of the mother, etc., may cause prenatal "insult" or damage to the developing organism. Somc disabilities arc inflicted upon the child by uterine environmental factors.

During the first month or so, varying cultural patterns can be seen to shape the physical appearance of thc child. For example, tough-shaping by a strong message of the infant's body in the northern states of India and tender-shaping of the nosc of thc girl-child by strong- pressing in the southern states of India.

As thc child grows, he faces and deals with several environment factors. The child gradually grows in complexity, supporting or contracting various factors as the environment may be varying kinds.

Let us discuss some of he environmental factors to see how they affect the growing personality of an individual.

Rearing patterns : Interactions between the infant and mother for satisfaction of biological needs play a significant role in personality development. Care and affection develop a sense of security. Over-indulgence or under-indulgence of the mother in breast-feeding would determine the "oral" personality and severity in toilet-training is the "anal" personality.

Regularity in feeding practices would develop in the child "basic trust" in thc world, irregularity would yield "mistrust". Similarly, toilet-mining severity may cause the child to grow into a doubting and shameful person, training "at ease" develops autonomy.

Parent-child interaction : Once the child grows free of the needs of the mother, parent-child interactions assume social dimensions. Through the interactions, both the individual psyche and the social psyche are communicated to the child and the child develops in him/her "individuous" (individual self and "socius" (social self).

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