The Nature-Nurture Debate: Finally Resolved - Hope 103.2

The Nature-Nurture Debate: Finally Resolved

An Australian study into the similarities between twins, has helped to resolve the age-old debate about ‘Nature versus Nurture’...

By Clare BruceTuesday 26 May 2015Health and WellbeingReading Time: 2 minutes

Twins of the world, take a bow. You’ve just helped resolve one of the science world’s greatest debates – the one about ‘Nature versus Nurture’.

Twins Women

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It’s a question that’s baffled and divided scientists for decades. Are human characteristics and diseases a product of genes, or upbringing and environment?

Well as it turns out, nature and nurture are practically equals.

New research released last week (May 19) by the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), shows that the two old rivals contribute almost exactly 50:50 to human traits and disease.

Researcher Dr Beben Benyamin of the “Match” study said that the differences between individuals are caused nearly exactly half by genetics, and half by environmental influences.

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“The findings show that we need to look at ourselves outside of a view of nature versus nurture,” he said, “and instead look at it as nature and nurture.”


14.5 Million Pairs Of Twins Studied


Twin Babies

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Dr Benyamin worked in partnership with researchers at VU University of Amsterdam to come up with the results.

Together they reviewed nearly every twin study done around the world in the past 50 years.

That’s more than 14.5 million twin pairs who went under the metaphorical microscope.

Twins are useful ‘guinea pigs’, as scientists can compare the similarities of identical twins who share all the same genes, to those of non-identical twins who share only half their genes. 


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The research found that although genetic and environmental factors are equal in most of the diseases and traits studied, they’re significantly different in some.

For example, the risk for bipolar disorder was found to be 70 percent due to genetics and only 30 per cent due to environmental factors.

And Dr Benyamin said that most traits are caused by a combination of many genes. 

“This means that there are good reasons to study the biology of human traits,” he said. “This has implications for choosing the best strategy to find genes affecting disease.”

The research, titled “Meta-Analysis of Twin Correlations and Heritability”, was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The results were published in Nature Genetics magazine and are also online in a database called “MaTCH”

Read more about the study on the Queensland Brain Institute website.