, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 308–321 | Cite as

Human development, nature and nurture: Working beyond the divide

  • Ilina Singh
Thinking on the Edge


In this essay, I explore what social science might contribute to building a better understanding of relations between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ in human development. I first outline changing scientific perspectives on the role of the environment in the developmental and behavioural sciences, beginning with a general historical view of the developmental science of human potentials in the twentieth century, and then reflecting on a call to arms against ‘toxic stress’ issued in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I suggest that such post-genomic programmes of early intervention, which draw on emerging scientific theories of organismic plasticity and developmental malleability, raise significant social and ethical concerns. At the same time, such programmes challenge social scientists to move beyond critique and to contribute to new developmental models that deconstruct the old divide between nature and nurture. I conclude by describing efforts that posit new terms of reference and, simultaneously, new kinds of research interests and questions that are not founded upon, and are not efforts to resolve, the nature–nurture debate.


epigenetics children toxic stress Nurse–Family Partnership ecobiodevelopmental model plasticity 


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Copyright information

© The London School of Economics and Political Science 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilina Singh
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of Economics & Political ScienceLondonUK

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