function. By contrast, when children grow up in more supportive contexts, the hereditary vulnerabilities that some children experience may never be manifested in problematic behavior. Understanding the coaction of nature and nurture thus contributes to early prevention.

Early intervention, especially when it is well tailored to a child 's individual characteristics, can be helpful in shifting the odds toward more optimal pathways of later growth, but because the nature-nurture interaction is dynamic over time, there are no guarantees. Each new developmental stage provokes new forms of gene-environment transactions that may alter, or maintain, previous pathways. This means that giving young children a good early start increases but does not guarantee later success, and that children who begin life at a disadvantage are not doomed to enduring difficulty. The interaction of nature and nurture underscores the importance of creating current conditions of care that respect inherited characteristics, recognizing that nature-nurture is a source of continuing potential change across the life course.

Finally, research in developmental psychobiology emphasizes the continuity that exists between typical and atypical variability in human characteristics. One of the important emerging insights of molecular genetics is that many psychological difficulties arise not from single-gene mutations, but instead from extreme variations on a biological continuum that includes normal variants of the same characteristics. There is, in other words, a very broad range of individual differences in which the boundaries between the normative and the atypical are matters of degree rather than quality. This means that, in studying the growth of typical children, researchers gain insight into the developmental dynamics of atypicality and that, conversely, efforts to understand the challenges of children with developmental disorders yield insights into normative growth.

These conclusions are consistent with the broader themes of this report and of the findings of research on early childhood development. Taken together, they indicate that despite a long historical tradition of dissociating the effects of nature and nurture on human character and development, their influences are, in the end, indissociable.

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