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Nature and nurture

Schaffner, Kenneth F.

Review Article

The nature-nurture issue is a perennial one that has resurfaced in current psychiatry as a series of debates on the role that genes (DNA) and environments play in the etiology and pathophysiology of mental disorders. The present review covers recent advances in epidemiologic and molecular psychiatry, focusing on schizophrenia as a prototype disorder for current inquiries into the roles of nature and nurture. The important, but not well understood role of the nonshared environment and its interaction with genetic liability for psychiatric disorders is discussed. Several recently identified and promising genes that relate to schizophrenia are noted. The review concludes by recommending an integrative and neurodevelopmental perspective that can function as a unifying framework for better understanding of the intertwined contributions of nature and nurture in psychiatry.

Office of University Professor of Medical Humanities, George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Correspondence to Kenneth F. Schaffner, M.D., Ph.D., University Professor of Medical Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, 709C Gelman Library, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA e-mail:

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.