I have been reading a fascinating book called Nurturing Natures by Graham Music who is Consultant Child Psychotherapist and Associate Clinical Director at the Tavistock Clinic in London. For someone from this world he writes very accessibly, bringing together research and practice from attachment theory and children’s social and emotional development and the newer world of neuroscience.
It seems clear from this well reviewed book that although research using genetics remains at an early stage, researchers acknowledge, what I have certainly always assumed, that nature and nurture constantly work in tandem and neither provides all the answers. People are definitely all born with genetic predispositions but experiences can turn genes on or off. An example he gives is that some adolescent girls have a predisposition to depression but this will only be realised if life events are particularly difficult.
It is interesting that Music recognises that children in the same family do not necessarily share the same emotional environment and while they might share some influences they also have some very different experiences. This would definitely account for at least some of the very different recollections of childhood events told by children in the same family. What seems key to optimum outcomes for children is the parental sensitivity and mind-mindedness (see below) of parents. Music concludes by saying that “What we can be sure of for now, and what the research has clearly shown, is that while the influences of temperament and genes are important and becoming better understood,the kind of parenting one receives and the kind of influences one has as a child can have a big effect, even if some children are more influenceable (because of carrying a particular gene) than others.”
This seems to be good news for those contemplating donor conception parenthood who tend to have given an awful lot of thought to what sort of parent they want to be and is reflected in research showing parents in families created through IVF and donor conception to be warmer and more attentive to their children.
Mind-Mindfulness is defined as a mother’s capacity to be in touch with her infant’s psychological and mental states, and to refer to these.