Local and National Research Team Awarded Grant to Study Nature vs. Nurture in the 21st Century

December 20, 2010

Contact: Leslie Leve (lesliel@oslc.org) or Debbie Wetherald (debbiew@oslc.org); 541-485-2711

EUGENE, Ore. — (Dec. 20, 2010) Two age-old questions are guaranteed to spark a heated discussion around the dinner table: Which came first: the chicken or the egg? And the classic debate of nature versus nurture.

The jury’s still out on the chicken, but a team of researchers from the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), the Pennsylvania State University, Yale University, and UC Riverside are discovering new ways to approach the complex world of human behavior and genetics. The group was recently awarded a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to investigate the interplay between genetic, prenatal, and postnatal environmental influences on early pathways to antisocial behavior, depression, and anxiety among elementary school children.

“The study takes the basic nature vs. nurture debate into the 21st century because we are no longer pitting nature against nurture; instead, we’re studying how the two interact and how one influences the other,” says Leslie Leve, OSLC senior scientist and co-director on the new study.

The grant will fund an extension of the ongoing Early Growth and Development Study, an adoption study of 561 birth parents and adoptive families that aims to understand the interplay between family and inherited contributions to child development (to learn more about the Early Growth and Development Study, visit https://earlydev.oslc.org/). The new study will expand this body of research to conduct a mental health assessment of adopted children and their parents.

“This study also helps OSLC bridge the gap between research and practice by maintaining an already mutually-beneficial relationship with local, regional, and national adoption agencies,” says Leve. The study is comprised of a national sample of families with children who were adopted at birth, forty percent of whom live in the Pacific Northwest. Close collaboration with adoption agency directors and staff was instrumental in launching the study.