Environment or Genetics contributes to Giftedness?
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
What causes a child to be gifted? Is it their environment or
is it genetics?
A: This has been a long debated
topic with much disagreement on either per se. Today, most
of us agree that it is a combination of both, yet to what
extent of each and whether each contributes equally or one
is more dominant than the other. Therefore, with regards to
the role of environment and genetics in the development of
giftedness, the picture that emerges is rather complex.
Studies after studies have shown varied findings, often one
more dominant than the other.
I believe that regardless of the environment, superior
skills can be manifested by children anywhere. In some
cases, extreme giftedness can be noted despite environmental
and personality characteristics that would have been
expected to inhibit its expression. On the other hand, in
other cases (and more likely ones) we note examples of
supportive environments both intellectually and emotionally,
which appears to play a vital role in the development and
nurturance of general and special skills. However, in the
long run, it does appear quite clearly that later outcomes
especially in terms of fulfilling a gifted potential, these
are related to life events such as family environment,
school support and personality style.
Nature (genetics) relates to the genetic heritage of an
individual. Nurture (environment) relates to the
environmental influences on the individual. It has been
suggested that the heritability of general cognitive ability
is approximately 62% and the rest is made up of the
environment one grows up in. However, the gene-environment
dynamic is not one in which each has a distinct but separate
role to play, nor that environment determines whether a gene
does or does not exert the influence on ability. Rather, the
function of the genetic system is itself context dependent;
therefore, generally both are necessary for cognitive
ability to develop.