Nature Vs. Nurture In Children That Were Adopted

Is my child’s behavior inherited, or learned?

Denalee Chapman April 17, 2017
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Ah … the age-old question: Nature, or nurture? Even families comprised strictly of biological children, the question comes into play:

       ”He’s acting just like you! I would NEVER have done that when I was his age!”

       ”She gets her smarts from my side of the family.”

       ”I thought we taught you to chew your food before swallowing!”

       ”Why isn’t he musical? Did you have an uncle who was tone deaf?”

       ”In our family, we all participate in foosball. You like it. We all do!”

Is my child’s behavior inherited, or learned? It’s an even more complex question when your child is biologically different. For example, from the time our son was old enough to sit on a regular chair at the table, no matter how much we asked him to sit with both feet on the floor, he would invariably raise his right leg and bend it so it rested on his chair and his knee rise up near his face. He’s now 24 and can’t comfortably eat a meal without lifting his leg. Why?

It turns out, in the Philippines it’s perfectly acceptable to have your leg up on the chair—if you have chairs—or if you eat from a sitting position on the floor, to raise one leg with the knee bent and your foot on the ground. He’s ¼ Filipino. Who would have thought? All those years he wasn’t being difficult on purpose—he was being comfortable. Then there’s the time period when he just couldn’t accept the fact I was “checking up on him” with his school work. His sister just a year younger than him (our biological child) didn’t mind at all. Nature or nurture? Who knows?

Thankfully, even with his rocky start at life, we never had any major issues that required professional treatment. But even if we had, it’s likely we wouldn’t have known for sure if it was due to his biology, his early weeks in life or his upbringing with us. Does it matter anyway? Our children are our children—and trying to explain away their behavior, essentially blaming it on biology or another parent—that just creates shame in our child and makes them feel more like a thing than a person.

Whatever we’re dealing with, let’s deal with the issue and care for the child—not the other way around. Let’s leave our egos out of the equation, and instead of looking for a “cause”, look to nurture the solution.

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at

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