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Post by InkAndComb on Wed Nov 19, 2014 6:38 am

I didn't see a thread on this, so here it goes:

I was adopted at birth. It's partially closed, which means when I came of age I was free to initiate contact. I now have identifying information, but have been paralyzed by fear in the whole writing a letter phase.
This came up in class since we watched a documentary called "Off and Running". If you haven't really thought much about adoption or the search process, it is AMAZING. Nailed it in every aspect and very personal, whether you're adopted or not!
Long story short, I'm thinking of making contact again but not sure how that will affect me. Will knowing my roots change me? Is my identity formed latently from genes as much as from my upbringing? What will people react like, how do I talk to people about this?
To the people here: do you actively seek information on your family? Do you relate who you are more to your genes or your upbringing, or both equally? Are we destined to be defined by our roots? Or do we create our identity from the ground up? If you found a truth about your family that you never knew, would it rock your world?

This is my first topic, so let me know if I put this in the wrong place or anything! You do not need to be adopted to comment, obviously Smile
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Post by waxingjaney on Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:56 am

IMO, people are the sum of their experiences and their reactions to them. The influence the chromosome hash wields is limited to physical, structural issues: stature, metabolism, nervous system, etc.
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Post by InkAndComb on Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:31 am

I felt very similar until I did some research into twin studies and adoption cases. There are aspects of individuality that seem to pass on without influence on environs; political leanings and inclination towards art are two that come to mind, though I don't have the citations on hand. Is it possible these are latent or are there overlooked variables? I'm not sure myself.
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Post by Werel on Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:44 am

I never paid much attention to my family history until the last couple of years; I've always had the "DNA is irrelevant to my lived experience" and/or "nurture rules, suck it, nature" mindset. But I saw a photo last Christmas of a great-great-grandfather, or something, who was a preacher. He had my father's face and a certain mad, haunted look in his eyes which made me wonder how many of my metaphysical leanings and mental health problems can be traced to blood. Apparently there have been a number of itinerant preachers in my lineage, with varying degrees of madness, which is both unsettling and somehow comforting. When I was younger, I gave a lot of thought to becoming a minister. I still often wish I had a religion because clergy seems like something I was built to be. Before I saw that photo, it never occurred to me that ancestry could have anything to do with it.

I'd be curious to learn more about the twin & adoption cases that looked at things usually attributed to socialization, if you want to sum them up and/or link to them. Smile
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:53 am

There are a lot of very sensitive, very anxious people on both sides of my family, and I'm a very sensitive, very anxious guy to a much higher degree than even most of them.

I tend to think your genes give you your temperament, and how your environment and temperament interact create your personality.
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Post by Guest on Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:39 am

All I know is I'm white Hispanic and/or Chicano I guess, I hate both terms. And have Spanish blood in me. It's dumb, I'm not exactly Mexican, I wasn't born in Mexico, I was born in the U.S., I'm an American.

On my mother's side, apparently I had a Spanish great grandfather or something from like Barcelona or whatever.

On my dad's side I know my grandpa was the son of a Mexican Native American and a Spanish gentleman as well. Other than that, my great grandmother put my grandpa in an orphanage when he was little for 8 or so months because she couldn't afford to take care of him or something.

That's the extent of the knowledge of my family and to be frank, I could care less about my family's history. It sounds like an awful thing to say, but as far as I know, nobody in my family has done anything great or worthwhile. My grandma on my mom's side died in her early thirties and growing up my mom didn't like talking about grandma much, so I never asked about what she was like. In fact, up until a couple of years ago, I never knew my grandma's name. I never knew my sister was named after my grandma until one of my older aunts said she was.

My grandma and grandpa on my dad's side still live in Guadalajara so I barely interact with them as well with some of my cousins and some aunts and some uncles. I don't really talk to them.

The family on my mom's side that's a little closer here to home and in Tijuana, well, I barely talk to them either. My cousin's disabled and can't talk, my other two cousins are 8 and 5 with five year old having developed some sort of speech impediment, so very limited interaction with cousins.

Except for my immediate family... I honestly know jackshit about my family and have no interest into investigating either.

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Post by Guest on Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:47 am

After my mum got into looking up our family history, I found I had a lot of interesting connections to my further back relatives.

Apart from being a bit of a short arse, I'm the spitting image of my great grandfather on my grandfather's side. It's actually very eerie. From being incredibly underweight to even facial features I'm very similar. I'm not to certain of his disposition, but as far as I know we're very similar. Obsessive, neurotic, perpetually worried. It's one of the reasons, my family thinks, that my late grandfather took a liking to me even though he had never met me once. We only ever talked over the phone, but he seemed to like me for some reason. We think that I reminded him of his own father.

I remember he always used to ask me if I had found a nice girl... Now I've made myself sad. Sad

I'm not well versed on the nature VS nurture debate if only because I always assumed nurture took an absolute precedent. While I still do, I think nature can have some truly amazing effects on a person and their identity.

For example, this is going to sounds stupid, but a lot of people say that Scottish people have one of the strongest calls to their homeland. Even if they are born elsewhere. I sort of laugh at the idea it's genetic, but my parents infused me with a great respect for my own culture even though I was born in Australia and never left it's shores. But I do have this urge to seek out Scotland and I think, even before going there, it could be a second home without much effort on my part. It's hard to explain.

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Post by reboot on Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:13 am

I think nature gives us heritable tendencies or potentialities that can be expressed/repressed based on nuture and environment. There is some science to back this up, not so much at the personality level but at the gene expression level. So if you take identical twins and raise one in a middle class family in the US and one in, say, a poor family in rural Pakistan, they would differ more than twins raised in similar settings down to their genetic code and those differences can be passed to their offspring.
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Post by Guest on Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:49 am

Epigenetics! Fascinating. *chinhands*

I do want to have a clever thing to say about this thread, because I think it is an interesting topic, but I think reboot's post pretty much sums it up: genetics give you the starting conditions, and these conditions are likely to include not just things like height and eye colour, but indicators for medical conditions and potentially some personality traits. HOWEVER: from the moment your genetic die are cast, the environment shapes you. It shapes you firstly in terms of how/which genes are expressed, and then it shapes you in terms of your memory and experiences. The structure of our brains means that our personalities are being written with every second that passes, so no two people can ever be exactly alike as they will not have the exact same experiences.

NEUROPLASTICITY FTW

Another thing to consider, which a lot of people misunderstand: there are VERY few genetic factors which are as simple as "gene X causes trait Y". It's more like:
1) genes X, Y and Z when combined cause trait W
2) gene X, in the presence of environmental factor Y, has a 38% chance of causing trait W
3) gene X might cause trait W but will also cause seemingly unrelated oddity Y

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Nov 20, 2014 9:35 am

Yeah, reboot and embertine's posts pretty much cover the accepted science on the subject as far as I know. So I guess I'll just go into vague personal stuff.

I get some things from my mom, some things from my dad, some things from my grandparents... and I have no idea where other things come from.

Like, my paternal grandpa is great at crunching numbers and my maternal granddad was a train engineer, but both of my parents hate math and I don't seem to have much of a talent for the particular skillsets that made my grandparents good at practical math. What little I do know comes mainly from my grandparents playing games with me from a really young age—where I'd have to quickly guesstimate a complex sum (e.g. the combined price of all our groceries or restaurant orders plus tip) or other number fact (e.g. the distance in steps from "here" to a landmark) and then somehow check to see how accurate my guess was. I used to be able to count by twenty-nines up to nine hundred eighty-six without pausing to think, but that one's gone for sure. Meanwhile, I have a knack for abstract algebraic structures and related concepts, and my proof-writing has repeatedly impressed my college professors, which is pretty much unprecedented anywhere else in my family—even most of my cousins say they hate math, and the one other hopefully-engineer-soon in the family is much more of a practical-numbers guy than a theoretical mathematician. Either my brain's just wired that much differently from any of my relatives or there's a heavily nurture-based element even in things we think of as "natural skills".

For that matter, all photos of my parents and grandparents as kids indicate that they've always had what pop-sci calls "mesomorph" and "endomorph" body types, but somehow I and most of my Japanese-side cousins turned out "ectomorph". (Hard to tell with my sister since she's always been very physically active.)

Golly I'm bad at Japanese. Maybe it's just that I didn't start trying to learn until I was 14?

On the other hand, my mom's super emotionally sensitive and compassionate with a sarcastic sense of humor, my dad's a reserved stoic with a spontaneous silly sense of humor, and I'm somewhere in the middle. Who knows if that's nature or nurture, though. Probably both.

Speaking of middle, when my mom and I take the Enneagram test, we both get the same score: we're apparently Type 2, Type 3, Type 4, Type 5, Type 6, and Type 9, all at once. As for Meyers-Briggs, well...

nearly_takuan wrote:He's an INFP, some tests say,
But others show ISTJ.
This is some part of why
He does not rely
On the Meyers-Briggs thing, anyway.
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Post by kath on Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:07 pm

I don't have any particular personal insight on this, but there's a This American Life episode that I found fascinating on this topic: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/360/switched-at-birth
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Post by Spiffo on Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:32 pm

InkAndComb wrote: Long story short, I'm thinking of making contact again but not sure how that will affect me. Will knowing my roots change me? Is my identity formed latently from genes as much as from my upbringing? What will people react like, how do I talk to people about this?
To the people here: do you actively seek information on your family? Do you relate who you are more to your genes or your upbringing, or both equally? Are we destined to be defined by our roots? Or do we create our identity from the ground up? If you found a truth about your family that you never knew, would it rock your world?

I think that the people who raised you and taught you your values are your "real" parents, and the bonds you share with them makes them your "real" family. Not a silly piece of DNA.

It's your call if you want to reach out to the strangers you share a bloodline with. You could find out some interesting information (medical history, for example). But it won't change who you are, where you came from, or the experiences you've had growing up. Don't lose sight of who your real family is: the people you raised you.
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Post by InkAndComb on Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:15 pm

I have returned! Sorry for the delay, but here is a study linking interests (In regards to "occupational and recreational activities") to genetics. It's a bit of a heavy read, but not very long; I have another article around here somewhere...
http://atavisionary.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Heritability-of-interests-a-twin-study-Lykken-bouchard.pdf

So I've read everyone's posts and super interesting stuff people! I too tend to think nurture over nature, but I remember being really surprised when I found out that my biological mother used to sing while she worked, everywhere she went. My family has always been very quiet (though friendly) and this always used to amuse my Amom(adopted). Nobody in my family does this, so it isn't a latent-nurture type scenario.

To clarify, I know that my family is my family. Nothing about this search/my interest invalidates the experience of the people who've raised me. My family is very comfortable with my search and is curious how it will turn out; my mom used to send letters to my mom throughout elementary telling my mom how it was going. Just little information stuffs, so she knew it was going alright.
I know there are strong feelings about this sort of thing, but this journey is more about me than my adoptive family (which is what I mean when I reference family). None of my actions are really...implying they are less (and my mom has made clear that this is not how she feels). At the same time, to deny my genetics seems silly to me. It isn't an all or nothing grab; I can accept the importance of my genes as well as the importance of who I was raised by. The weight of discovery is more of what concerns me, I guess; the pandora's box of information!

I hope this makes sense
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