Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's environment?

In my last posts, I spoke about onset of stuttering and about triggers. I also said that I am very skeptical that environmental factors play a leading role, especially at onset. It's the eternal debate between nature and nurture. But the more I think about this issue, the more I am convinced that I and many others have been confused and it is the really the debate between nature, events and nurture. Anything that is not attributed to genes is often called environmental. This term is strictly speaking correct, but environment is not just nurture. Rather, environment is the general environment that the child (and his siblings and friends) lives in AND unique events that happen to the child within the environment: like virus infection, head injury, traumatic experience, and so on. I would argue that, relatively speaking, events are driving divergence between siblings because they cause a large difference between the one hit by the event and the sibling which is not, as opposed to the general environment with its similar impacts on siblings.

We are definitely the product of our genes, of our events, and of the immediate environment (of family and friends) and culture that you grew up. And, even nurture is not just nurture by parents, but also by other family members and most importantly by peers. So you can see that parents actually often do not have such a big role at all. In my next post, I will talk about the Genain quadruplets (mono zygotic) and their life with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia in order to explain my ideas with a concrete example.

Finally, as a physicist, I cannot resist pointing out to all of you that the environment is not really well-defined. Where does it start and "you" begin? You are really nothing else than a bunch of atoms! Is the air you have in your lungs part of your environment or not? and your blood? The millions of bacterias in your stomach? The 90% of atoms especially water that are completely swap every so many years and you are not even the same person physically speaking than we were 10 years ago!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting series of posts. Recently my husband mentioned our son's stuttering to a colleague and that person started talking about their 4 year old girl, who has begun to stutter. They did not know if it was related to the stresses in the house with a newborn sibling! The timing of these posts! I know that early on, because our son was our first and I'm a last born--and did not know nothin' about babies/ toddlers, that I was willing to attribute it to our parenting skills.

Tom Weidig said...

Your husband should send them to my blog to read about this!

Parenting skills matter, but I don't think in onset of stuttering. Once the kid stutters, good to exceptional parenting skills may help the kid in his or her struggle to recover.

ac said...

There's evidence that "parenting skills" (whatever that means) contribute to recovery from stuttering? Sounds like a long bow to be drawing, to me.

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