Children's Conceptions of Nature and Nurture

Susan A. Gelman

in The Essential Child

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195154061
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786718 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

 Children's Conceptions of Nature and Nurture

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Inheritance plays an important role in adults' everyday thoughts about social categories. When people think about identity, they often assume that properties are passed down from parent to child, independent of social or environmental influences. In this sense social identity may be construed as natural. This chapter argues that children view membership in certain categories as natural, and that young children appeal to inheritance and innate potential when they essentialize. They display rather elaborate beliefs that kinship overrides outward similarity, that inborn traits may be inherited, and that birth parents are more important than adoptive parents in determining growth and development. The main point is that children understand certain categories in terms of embodied, inherited, natural differences.

Keywords: essentialism; children; child psychology; nature; nurture; inheritance; conceptions; categories

Chapter.  8584 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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