Adoption: Nature vs Nurture

Throughout my life as an adoptee, I’ve always internally debated the dichotomy of adoption: am I the way that I am because of who I came from (nature), or because of who (and how) I was raised (nurture)? Do my interests and characteristics come from inherited traits, or environmental factors?

Growing up, and throughout my post-secondary years when I was studying psychology, I was convinced that nurture was the winner of this debate. I truly believed that who I was had nothing to do with where I can from, and that my personality, interests, and skills were all as a direct result of my upbringing, and more specifically, who raised me.

But when I reunited with my biological father, my perspective was forever changed. As he spoke about his interests, his personality traits, and his skills, my eyes opened to the possibility of genetic inheritance. He spoke with the same eagerness and enthusiasm as I did. His passion for music, art, and culture mirrored my own, and his personality flaws mimicked mine.

The other day I had a parent-teacher interview with my daughter’s first grade teacher, and my eyes were once again opened to the reality of the effects of nature. The comments that they made about her personality – that she was artistic, creative, chatty, and enthusiastic about connecting with others and about expressing her creativity through music, art and dance – made me realize that she had inherited the same traits that I had inherited.

Now that I have my own biological children, I am constantly in awe of the ways in which they begin to develop into little versions of my husband and I. And while I still believe that the way that I was raised had a huge impact on who I am, I’m seeing more and more that nature has its place as well.

I see the nature vs nurture debate in a new light now – I think for me, my passion for the arts, my desire to express my creativity, and my inability to do math and science stem from my genetic-making, and the way that I respond to my surroundings, my desire to succeed, to follow my dreams, to believe that I can achieve anything, stems from the lessons and love that I’ve received from the parents who raised me.

As I ponder this dichotomy, I am reminded of the most beautiful poem on the subject of nature vs nurture and adoption – Legacy of An Adopted Child. This poem speaks so perfectly to me – what do you think of it?

Mother Daughter

Mini Me


  1. Must be very eye-opening you to observe your biological children having lived you formative years not having access to your biological parents/relations.

    Being a parent in an open adoption, I’m always on the lookout for clues to my son’s temperament. Is it nature? Is it wired inside him? How much is he influenced by us, his friends, society etc… It’s become a near obsession for me. I think that his uberfocus comes from his birthmom but it’s a bit too soon to tell. His personality is thus far not pinnable (but this may change). His athletic ability/agility, totally genetic.

    A while back I wrote the Nurturing Your Child’s Natuer post –, which you commented on (you should see what you said in retrospect – very interesting!)

    Anyway, fascinating to read your adoption posts.

    • Thanks for sharing my older comment Harriet, it’s funny how my perspective had changed once I had reconnected with my biological father. I still think that for me, the way that I was raised and “nurtured” far outweighed where I came from in regards to who I am, but I’m still fascinated to see just how much my kids are like me. Of course, they were both born from me and raised by me, so who’s to say which has had more of an effect on them – nature or nurture!

  2. LOL.
    If I’ve learned anything, it’s that nothing is static & everything changes over time. (I know big revelation there but so true especially in terms of feelings or revelations).

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