Electric Personality:

A Parental Guide to Understanding the Developmental Process of a Child's Epigenome

         By: Cameron Beckner                            

Introduction 

The Most Critical time for a child's brain development is during the first three years of their life, as these are the times where brain development is the most rapid. This is the case because children,at this time in their lives, are learning the basis of behavioral norms in society, as well as developing their own personalities from their learning and nurturing experiences from their parents, and family. This guide is aimed at aiding parents in recognizing healthy ways in helping their child grow into their personality. Then they can fully support their child's physical and emotional growth, as well as contribute to making a comfortable growing experience for the child. In order to do that though, certain factors that affect a child's epigenome, or what makes them unique need to be examined to enhance the parent's understanding of the process of growth. By the end of this guide, parents should be able to identify certain factors and practices that affect a child's overall uniqueness, and with that knowledge can then go to work to giving their child a healthy and positive experience of developing into their own person.

 

This guide will discuss:

  • Nature vs. Nurture debate.
  • Environmental factors that affect a child's epigenome.
  • Basic Genetics of child development.
  • Genetic Factors that affect a child's epigenome.

 

 

To read more about nature vs. nurture, read the following article below:

Nature vs. Nurture

Before discussing the factors that can affect a child's epigenome, it is important to recognize the difference between the interactions of nature and nurture upon a child. Basically this debate contemplates which of these two has a bigger impact upon an individual's behavioral patterns/personality, general makeup, and emotional and physical health. Nature refers more to the genetic traits that are passed down from parent to child, whereas nurture refers to the traits developed over time by the individual. 

For example:

Nature Advocates would argue:

  • Homosexuality is not a choice. It is passed down.
  • Obesity is largely due to genetics passed down from the parent to the child.
  • If a child follows in a parents footsteps, it can be argued they are naturally inclined to go in that direction

Nurture Advocates Would argue:

  • Homosexuality is not passed down so therefore it is not a choice.
  • Obesity is the result of poor eating habits as well as poor personal choices.
  • If a child follows in a parents footsteps, it can be argued they followed based on the nurturing way they were raised at home.

So basically, nurture would focus on the environmental factors that affect a child's epigenome, and nature would focus on the genetic factors. This whole debate asks which plays a bigger role, but the truth is, is that the development of almost all traits in an individual is due to a combination of both nature and nurture interactions.

 

 

How the Environment Affects an Epigenome

The environment is going to play a huge role in aiding, or hindering the development of a child's epigenome, but also their temperament, or the patterns of arousal and emotionality that represent consistent and enduring characteristics in an individual. Keep in mind that this will only affect some of the traits developed, as others are more affected by genetics than the environment. In this context the environment refers to the exposure of a child to the outside world, and the traits they develop on their own from that exposure. More so, it refers to how the child interacts with the environment, and how to a bigger extent, how the environment interacts with them. So how do we know which factors are environmental? Well, the previous slide stated that environmental factors are more associated with nurturing, so environmental factors are going to refer to the personality traits that children develop over time by themselves. Basically the traits that aren't crucially affected by genetics.   

Examples:

  • A childs outgoing nature could be a product of the exposure of their environment, as some parents would encourage their child to have high levels of socializing. Works the other way around too, as those who aren't encouraged to socialize a'lot are more likely to not be very outgoing.
  • Physical ability can be a product of environmental exposure as children who have higher levels of physical activity are more likely to be more physically and emotionally healthy, whihc can then affect their overall behavior and personality.
  • Education is a huge example. Children who receive an education are further exposed to their environment, and socialize even more. 

To learn more about chromosomes, please visit the following website:

 

   Introducing Genetics

To learn more about genes and chromosomes, go to:

  • www.genome.gov

Before we dive into the genetic factors that affect a child's epigenome, it is important to talk about the basics about genetics.

 

Firstly, a gene is a basic unit of genetic information. These are basically the genetic blueprints for creating a person, so they are especially vital in the development of the epigenome. They are composed of specific sequences of DNA(deoxyribnucleic acid) molecules.Once composed, they are arranged in specific locations along 46 rod shaped portions of DNA called chromosomes. According to funtrivia.com, there are about 20,000-25,000 genes on a single chromosme.The chromosomes are organized into 23 pairs. Both the ovum and the sperm cell contain 23 chromosomes, so that the child's mother and father each provide one of the two chromosomes i n each 23 pair. these 46 chromosomes will contain the genetic blueprint that will guide cell activity and multiplication.

 

So where does all the diversity come from? Mainly from the sex cells-the sperm and ovum- as each cell receive one of the two chromosomes that make up the 23 pairs. Because this is usually a matter of chance, which chromosome they get, there are millions of possible genetic makeups/combinations that the zygote could receive.

How Genetics Affect an Epigenome

To learn more about how genetics can influence a personality, read these two sources below:

Genetics also play a huge role in aiding, or hindering, the epigenome of a child. These factors are the factors that a child cannot control, because they are mainly born with them or are passed down from parent to child, so this would be going on the nature side of the debate, as those focuses on the traits and characteristics a child has no, or very little, control over. Two of the "big five" personality traits, neuroticism and extroversion, have been linked to having genetic factors attached to them. Neuroticism refers to the degree of emotional stability an individual characteristically displays, and Extroversion is the degree to which a person seeks to be with others, and be generally socialable. The fact that genetics are linked with these personality traits means basically that the degree of emotional stability and social outgoings of the parent, could be passed down to the child. Now, it is important to realize that genetics could play a role in the epigenomes development. Some kids are very socially outgoing while their parents are socially isolated. The bottom line is that genetics are not always a given helping or hindering the development of the epigenome of a child. Still confused? Lets look at some examples where genetics can play a role in the development of an epigenome.

 

Examples:

  • A mother who smokes during pregnancy during could negatively affect the child she is carrying, as the child could be born with severe disabilities or health problems. These can affect the epigenome's development as their physical abilities( a huge factor that can help shape the epigenome) may be limited due to their physical disabilities or health problems.
  • Children tend to focus on aspects of their environment that are most similar to their genetic abilities. Kids who are active, or aggressive, may gravitate towards sports. Kids who are non-active may gravitate towards social clubs.

Cherry, K. (2016, Aug.24). What Is Nature Versus Nurture? Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.verywell.com/what-is-nature-versus-nurture-2795392


National Human Genome Research Institute. (2015, June.16). Chromosomes. Retrieved March 23,2017,from https://www.genome.gov/26524120/chromosomes-fact-sheet/

 

KidsHealth. (2014, March). What is a Gene? Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/what-is-gene.html

 

Kraus, M. (2013, July 11.) Do Genes Influence Personality? Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/under-the-influence/201307/do-genes-influence-personality

 

Azar, B. (2002, Sept.) Searching for Genes that Explain our Personality. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/genes.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited