Personality: Nature, Nurture, or Combo?

I never took a psych class and I never studied human development. I have no idea if such a study has ever been done or how to find it if it exists. With that disclaimer…

If a child is raised by a single parent in a household where the parent and any sibs are of the opposite sex of the child, is said child more likely to act like/identify with the opposite sex than a kid in a two-parent household?

I know in more than one movie, part of the plot involves a girl whose mother has died and she grows up with Dad and a bunch of brothers. This girl is inevitably shown as tomboyish, holding her own with her brothers, pretty much dressing and acting like them. Somewhere along the line, Dad apologizes because he doesn’t know how to teach her all the girly things that she needs to know.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the opposite situation used as a plot device - a son who grows up with Mom, maybe Grandma, and a bunch of sisters. Maybe because no one wants to protray such a boy as being turned gay by living with all the females. Plus it would lack the heartwarming scene when the tomboy is suddenly transformed to the prom queen… I guess that’s more believable than a sissy boy becoming the winning quarterback in the big game. :rolleyes:

So anyway, are these situations merely plot devices, or do they reflect some truth. Will a girl in an all-male household become a proficient armpit farter? Will a boy in an all-female household become a great nuturer? Or do we become who we become because that’s just who we are?

My gut feeling is that our upbringing is less important - otherwise every child raised in a family would be pretty much like his/her siblings. Other than maybe the Osmonds, I don’t think that’s typical. Certainly not among my sibs.

Which brings me back to where I started: Is a boy in an all-female environment likely to adopt female traits? Will a girl in an all-male environment act like one of the guys? And no, I’m not asking if they’ll be turned gay/lesbian. More like: will their social interactions tend to be more typical of the opposite sex?

In my experience, genetics weigh heaviest. I’ve read a few studies on twins raised in different families, who were so much alike in personality and manner, it was hard to believe they hadn’t been raised together.

My son had his father’s mannerisms, even though we didn’t live together. (maybe not so accurate, since we all lived together until he was 6.)

I was left with my grandparents when I was 8 days old . I saw my mother for the first time at age 15. I felt like a clone. Mannerisms, voice modulation, temperment, all alike. Even our laughs were alike.

My husband has two brothers, but they’re much older than he is. They were off to college by the time he was walking. His parents were in their late 40s when he was born. He has always preferred the company of older people. (like me. :smiley: ) He is a little more sensitive than the older ones. Even though his father lived at home, he was gone a lot, being in the fire service. He didn’t start that until the older boys were in their teens. Hubby and the oldest are firefighters, the middle one isn’t.

Don’t know if this is any help.

I think a distinction has to be drawn between “personality” and “life knowledge.” A girl raised in a male environment is probably more likely to possess knowledge of skills like arm-farting. Whether or not she enjoys showing off her abilities is probably more a question of personality.

For what it is worth, I have a few female friends whose male SOs were raised in a heavily female environment. They report that these SOs tend to have better insight into female behavior/attitudes. Again, I’d define that as knowledge rather than personality. What those SOs do with that knowledge - use it to enrich their personal relationships with the women they choose to become close to - is a manifestation of their personality.

Personally, I think personality has a very strong genetic component. (As an adopted child with a biological son, I have some insight into this issue.) However, it seems unlikely that the “nature vs. nurture” debate can ever be fully resolved. It is not a question that lends itself to a definitive answer.

I was raised in an all female househould from 3rd grade on and am female.

I was always better friends with boys and hung out with them more. I was more of tomboy and had my share of stupid antics. Girls always played too many head games. Boys were right up front, and I appreciated that.

Even as an adult woman, I find that I get along better with men, than most women. Though, as I age, I have found that I have an equal number of both male and female good friends.

My daughter, who has been raised in a two-parent household with a brother, has more male close friends, than female. She appreciates the straight-forwardness of males, and thinks her female aquaintances play too many head games. She is me all over again.

I don’t know about the gender angle, but I am adopted and grew up in a family where another sibling (older brother) was adopted, and a younger brother & sister were our parent’s biological children. Parents were married, so it was split evenly on gender. But growing up with this experience, I would say that in general personality in terms of temperament is more biologically-based, and personality in terms of interests and/or opinions is more environmentally-based. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if a girl raised among a lot of boys would like sports, for example.

I expect that genetics/fetal development has a far more profound effect on temperament than nurture, leaving out abusive or stagnating environments. There was a book in the last five years of so that really got up people’s noses, The Nurture Assumption, which stated that a child’s social peers had far more influence over their personality and development than the parents did. Obviously, it’s a controversial hypothesis, and I found much of what the author’s had to say relevant, but I still think the parents get the last, final, and absolute say over what kind of environment and peers the child has.

I grew up in a predominantely female household (4 daughters, 1 son) in the early 60s, so I was pretty much expected to step into a June Cleaver mold. I learned to sew and cook and knit, but I taught myself to repair flats on our bicycles and I was the only one of the 5 sibs who Dad trusted with his tools. Still, it was assumed that I’d get a proper woman’s job - teaching or secretary or nurse.

I started going for a teaching degree, but I dropped out of college after my first year and joined the Navy. All of a sudden, I was plunged into a predominantly male environment, and I experienced a rebirth! I trained as a technician. I got my pilot’s license. I bought my first car and got my first apartment, all without parental assistance. And I came out of my shy shell and turned into the smart-ass engineer I am today. Would I have experienced that rebirth if I’d had all brothers? Hard to tell. But since I was in a 2-parent household, my original question doesn’t apply.

I appreciate all the insights, especially concerning temperment. I didn’t expect an easy answer - I just kinda wondered if anyone knew of a study that explored this particular family dymanic.

I’d have to say that there is a third elephant in the room that most people don’t notice.


We are defined as much or more by the choices we make as anything else.

The way we decide to act, the way we decide to react. The ways we decide to think about things, the ways we decide to feel about things.

Well, you were both raised by the same people, right? So the nurture and nature components are both the same in that case?

I’m raising boy/girl twins. Their temperaments have been distinctively different from day one.

Nature molds the gun. Nurture supplies some triggers, or not, depending. Animal breeders are generally more mindful of this than the rest of us.