Each child has their own unique personality and disposition, which can greatly affect their reaction to negative events, and even mold their interpretation of whether or not a certain experience is positive or negative. These unique differences are both inherited and bred through a child's environment. David Walters notes that even within the same family, “Two children can be poles apart in their views, personality, and actions.” (Walters, 1975, p. 156) Westmen (1973) showed that there is a wide range of temperament & personality differences even among young children, indicating that unique differences are present from birth. Yet that far from determines the child.
How Much Do Genes Matter?
The discovery and advances in DNA over the last few decades has led to many new discoveries, and has also increased awareness of genetics as a means of explaining away conditions or ailments. People are hard at work looking for the gay gene, the cancer gene, the fat gene, the short gene, the alcoholic gene, the depression gene, and perhaps even the short, fat, depressed alcoholic Ben & Jerry's ice cream gene. Most of these efforts are doubtful to provide any real usefulness, and Attwood (2000) notes that our understanding of the genetic code hasn't really done a thing towards understanding human behavior. That's because genes are but a small part of the overall picture. While nobody would argue about whether or not they play a role, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about exactly how much of a role they play.
Human beings have about 25,000 genes in their genetic code. In case you’re inclined to feel special, that puts us on the same level of genetic complexity as a chicken or a spotted Puffer fish. (Jensen, 2006) Humans as a whole share around 99.9% of our DNA, meaning there’s only a one-tenth of 1% difference from one human to another. However, structural differences in the way these genes are ordered, copied, and repeated could add an additional 0.5% variance. (Saey, 2009)
That genetic code contains the operating instructions that guide each of the 50 trillion or so cells in our body. But here's where the process becomes much more complicated: Each of those 50 trillion cells have receptors that receive information, process it, and initiate an electrochemical process that alters our very genetic code. (Giancotti & Ruoslahti, 1999)
In recent years, scientists have come out cloning all sorts of animals. They triumphantly declare that they have cloned a sheep, a cow, a chicken, a horse, or whatever happens to be their preferred animal. Yet don't hold your breath waiting for your own little 'mini-me.' If you've ever seen pictures of the cloned animal and the parent together, you'll see they often look quite different. I remember one set in particular – the mother was a black sheep. Her 'clone' was white with brown spots. That's because even though a cloned animal may share the same DNA as their parent, DNA is only one part of the equation. Other factors include...