Turns out, it isn’t a matter of nature versus nurture. It’s more like nature AND nurture. Throughout my formal education, which consisted of a lot of courses in psychology and human development, there was a standing argument about which variable has more impact for a person. People who held a socio-cultural perspective pretty much maintained that environmental influences play a bigger role in a person’s life. Meanwhile, people with a biological background maintained that genetics were the main influencer of how a person turned out.
But, the truth is that genetics are a person’s “software” and environment provides the triggers for the software’s execution. For example, there is evidence to suggest that males with a paternal history of alcoholism may very well be genetically predisposed to becoming alcoholic. However, if a son is exposed to enough protective environmental cues, there is likelihood that he will not develop an issue with alcohol. However, if he is exposed to environmental cues that suggest that drinking alcohol, even to excess, is “ok,” his genetic makeup coupled with the environmental cues make it highly likely that he will develop an addiction to alcohol. But, it isn’t a matter of either/or. Genetic markers AND environmental cues play together to create very specific outcomes within a human life.
Even if a person is exposed to substance abuse, without the genetic makeup and markers that would predispose him to addiction, that person will not develop one. There has to be something in someone’s genetic code that indicates a predisposition towards an addiction.
There are a ton of studies that are beginning to reveal that there is a set of genetic markers that would indicate a predisposition to alcoholism. However, just because those markers are present for a person does not mean, with certainty, that he or she will develop an alcohol addiction. It’s all a probability; but, there is more than enough evidence to convince me of something that I once heard on some TV show or another: Genetics is the loaded gun, environment is the trigger.