I’m a great fan of Prof Jim al-Khalili who has a wonderful ability to make all things scientific accessible to mortals like you and me. His recent interview on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific with cognitive psychologist and science ‘agent provocateur’ writer Steven Pinker was fascinating. Pinker really stirs up the ‘nature-versus-nurture’ debate as he reckons that our behaviours and how we turn out are more a result of ‘evolutionary psychological adaptations’, and that parental upbringing is less important.
Pinker goes so far as to say that “parenting peaks at conception”… perhaps to the relief of every guilty parent who can’t work out why little Joanna has gone off the rails despite getting the best of everything and being booked into a top-notch prep school just weeks after conception. It makes you think doesn’t it?
So what do I say when people ask me how, after 15 years in care as a child, pregnant and married at 16 and a cleaning lady until 28, did I manage to break out and make something of myself? I don’t really know but I do know that I inherited ‘something strong’ but from whom I’m not really sure. I also know that the discipline and deprivations of 1950s and ‘60s care homes certainly shaped me.
However, above all else I realise that developing a strong sense of independence, humour and self-reliance can help us make powerful choices which raise us above any destiny determined by genes and/or our upbringing.
Have a listen here, and consider what factors may have shaped how you ‘are turning out’?