Heredity, the Environment, and Development

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The field of behavioral genetics strives to understand how and why we develop the way we do. Behavioral genetics seeks to find how not only heredity, but also environment, plays a role in the development of human beings. The field has evolved quite a bit in the last few years. Studying genetics helps us to be able to predict future behaviors and also potentially help us to use genetic engineering. Since the study of behavioral genetics can potentially lead us down the road of genetic engineering it attracts a lot of controversy.

As will be examined here genetics shows some strong correlations between heredity and environment. The field has studied numerous examples to help explain what is caused by heredity, what is caused by environment, and how the two can be linked together to further understand why we behave the way that we do.

Behavior Genetics"Human behavioral genetics, a relatively new field, seeks to understand both the genetic and environmental contributions to individual variations in human behavior." (McInerney, 2008) Human behavior genetics studies how an individual's genetics and environment influences their behavior. "Behavior genetics focus is on the effect of heredity on differences between individuals." (Boyd & Bee, 2006) Heredity refers to genetic and traits being transmitted from one generation to the next or from the parent to the offspring. "Traits or behaviors are believed to be influenced by genes when those of related people, such as children and their parents, are more similar than those of unrelated people." (Boyd & Bee, 2006) Behavior geneticists study behavior genetics and the way they can affect an individual. Behavior geneticists have shown in their studies that heredity can affect some traits and behaviors, like intelligence, shyness, and aggressiveness. The basic concepts of behavior genetics are: phenotypes which are observable or measurable characteristics (hair and eye color); genotype which are genetic complement of an individual, like having a recessive gene for color blindness; polygenic which is many genes influencing a trait but no one gene has a major effect (hundreds of genes influence IQ and personality).

Correlations between Heredity and EnvironmentCorrelation between heredity and environment can be looked at through genotypes or a person's "unique genetic blueprint" (Boyd & Bee, 2006) and the environment which a child tends to experience. Active genotype environment correlation, evocative genotype environment correlation, and passive genotype environment correlation are three casual mechanisms to describe the correlation between heredity and environment in relationship to human behavior (Scarr & McCartney, 1983, p.4). Genotype environment correlations affect phenotypes through the course of a person's development (p.4). A child's development stems directly from traits his or her parents pass along and environmental experiences therefore behavioral genetics has developed theories of the correlation between heredity and environment.

Active genotype environment correlation is defined as a child's tendency actively to seek environments he or she finds to be "compatible and stimulating" (Santrock, 2002, ¶2). An example would be a child who is introverted tends to seek solitary environments. A child who is extroverted tends to seek out social environments. Evocative genotype environment correlation is "when the child's genotype elicits certain types of physical and social environments" (¶19). The responses a child receives from his or her environment molds the child's development. A child who demonstrates a pleasant disposition evokes positive reactions in his or her social environment for example. (Scarr & McCartney, 1983, p.4) Passive genotype environment correlation describes correlation based on the "rearing environment" (Santrock, 2002, ¶31) supplied by the "biological parents" (¶31). The explanation the passive type of correlation is the parent passed the genes to the...
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