chapter  2
18 Pages

How gene–environment interactions shape biobehavioural development: Lessons from studies with rhesus monkeys


The question of whether the features that make us unique as individuals are largely determined by our genetic heritage or shaped by our personal experiences has been argued since at least the time of Aristotle – clearly the “nature-nurture” debate is not exactly new. What has been relatively new among those who study development is the realization that the basic question underlying this debate over the years may have been largely misdirected. Instead of arguing whether behavioural and biological characteristics that emerge during development are genetic in origin or are the product of specific experiences, these researchers now acknowledge that both genetic and environmental factors can play crucial roles in shaping individual developmental trajectories (Collins, Maccoby, Steinburg, Hetherington, & Bornstein, 2000). For example, behavioural geneticists (e.g., Plomin, 1990) have sought to determine the relative contributions of specific genetic and environmental factors to a variety of physical, physiological, behavioural, cognitive, and socio-emotional features. Other investigators (e.g., Rutter, 2001) have focused on possible interactions between genetic and environmental factors.