Nature vs Nurture

I’m writing this post because I believe that we have reached a point in Gavin‘s life where but has become very clear that nature has won. 

For those of you unfamiliar with nature vs nurture here’s the best way I can explain it.

Gavin‘s biological father is sociopath.  Most,  if not all of Gavin‘s psychological issues were genetic birthday presents,  from his biological father,  Nick.  The aspergers is likely linked to Lizze,  just to be fair.

Without intervention,nature would like haveGavingrow up to be like Nick. 

However, we had always hoped that by nurturing Gavin and providing unconditional love and support, we would be able to derail that plans that nature had in store for him.

Does that make sense?

Having said that, I want to make it clear that Gavin has a great many fantastic qualities. He’s bright, creative, helpful and polite. These are just a few things off the top of my head.

The problem is that Gavin has a very dark side to him that is becoming more and more prominent. In many ways, this dark side is winning and becoming his dominant personality, if you will.

You are likely already familiar with the meltdowns we deal with on an almost daily basis. He’s also becoming very vocally degrading to Lizze. Basically, he treats her like garbage and as time goes on, it’s getting worse and worse. He is however, very careful not to do this in my presence because he knows how quickly I would put him in his place.

It’s very much like he’s 2 people. When he’s around people that are more likely to give him what he wants, he’s polite and respectful. However, when it comes to people that hold him accountable and don’t let him do whatever he wants, he is very, very unpleasant.

This is very much in line with Nick. He’s one way when people are watching and another when they aren’t. Nick also likes to manhandle the women in his life.

This has been coming on for a very long time and actually started when he very young. He began targeting women with violence and would assault Lizze frequently. While it’s been a long time since he physically went after Lizze, the trend continues.

We have done everything we can possibly do to help Gavin overcome Nicks legacy. He’s been in counciling for many years and we have done nothing but love, nurture and support him.

While we have no intention of giving up, we are realizing that sometimes, nature can’t be overcome.

It breaks my heart to even say this but it’s the truth.

**Thanks for reading**

       -Lost and Tired

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This was posted via WordPress for Android, courtesy of Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Please forgive any typos. I do know how to spell but auto-correct is working against me.

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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Lost and Tired, I already commented on this yesterday, but I just keep thinking about this. Nobody can quite understand how it is to keep at , say a certain behavior, over and over, for years on end, with no change. Frustrating is an understatement. I just know what you mean, and no parent likes that spot. We all want to be that guiding figure in a child's life. One therapist (one of many over the years) told me to accept that I may not be the person who teaches the lesson I tried so hard to impart. Maybe said c hild will learn it another way . Now, I don't really like that, but it is true, and some of mine have learned the very hard way, when of course, my way would have been smoother! Sometimes in trying so hard, we parents begin to believe that we will be successful in all ways, and don't really see that we are not able to accomplish all that needs doing for special needs kids. Just keep trying, loving Gavin even when he is unlovable, and remember that he is probably doing the best he can with what he is working with. (Oh, and I do believe that special kids can manipulate with the best of them!) And try not to let him suck up all the attention and resources even tho he has high needs. Then, his medical condition doesn't help, does it! I think I would at least look into some in home care for him so you can devote some of the time to the rest of the kids and Lizzie, and even YOURSELF! If he is not able to comply with rules, then you would have the option of rewarding the little guys while he was still cared for by someone else. Their anxiety will go down as the parents' level can go down. I lived this life! Sometimes you just gotta assess the needs of the whole over the needs of the one out of synch. This gig is not for the weak, that's for sure, and I try each day to send good thoughts, prayers, or energy your way.


Thank you Kathy. Well said.


I've read this whole discussion and all I can say wow, can there be a clearer case of Apples and oranges.

First off, I want to express my empathy to Lost and Tired. It can't be easy raising another man's biological child in the best of circumstances. The heart breaks you are facing must be enormous.

But it is clear that Tam is having one conversation and the rest of the thread is responding to a completely different issue than the one she raised. What may have seemed like and attack to you and your readers, seems to me to be a simple caution to be vigilant about the unconscious cues that you and Gavin's mother communicate to him. Such cues are visceral things and not easy to guard. All the conscious effort to encourage and love a child can be undone in one moment by allowing a child to pick up on unvoiced fears about his value, danger and role in the family.

Here is what I think she is trying to point out:
When a child is being raised he or she is a little imitation machine. A child looks to primary care givers, not only for love and support, not only for models of behavior, but for cues as to the child's role in the family unit, community and society.

The point Tam raised was not a criticism of your feelings or your compassion as a step father. What she was concerned with is the unconscious cues that might be communicated without intending it. These cues are how a child learns his place in the family. If for instance (and this is only hypothetical) your wife is reminded of her frusterations and anger with Gavin's father each time she see's Gavin, this reminder might would show in little unspoken ways that she might never notice. Children are wired to be hyper sensitive to such cues. This ios how they are socialized and it will go very far toward shaping the person the child is inside.

The reason a child is (and this goes for all kids) "a different" person in different situations is that all human beings do this to some extent. When you are at work you are Work-Lost, at home you are Home-Lost. These transitions are perfectly natural and as adults we gradually sythesize them into a single core identity.

But if a particular environment is communicating cues that "Lost" is an outsider, a bad seed or a danger, Lost will respond unconsciously and adapt. OF course underlying features of "who" Lost is already will affect what sort of behavior and role that will produce, but the cues from the group certainly WILL affect the outcome.



Look, I appreciate what you are saying, however the problem I think people had with Tam\’s opinion is partly because of how she presented herself and also because while what she\’s saying, in principle is true, she assumes that we are guilty of the same thing.

The reality is that I don\’t see Gavin as an outsider. I don\’t see Gavin as Nicks son. I\’ve raised Gavin as my own since he was just over a year old. I\’m the only father he\’s ever known.

It was Lizze, myself and Gavin for many years before the other boys came along. The only thing that separates Gavin from the rest of us is his behaviors. That\’s it.

No one looks at Gavin differently because I\’m not his biological father. I adopted him and my name is the one on his birth certificate. While it\’s true that there is a lack of that biological connection between Gavin and I that doesn\’t change that fact that I am his father and he is my son.

The problem we have is with Gavin\’s behaviors. When I say that he\’s turning into his biological father, that\’s because he\’s heading down the same violent path as Nick has been on for most of his life. As I said before, Nick is a sociopath and Gavin has been exhibiting signs of sociopathy for quite some time. We have been trying to provide him the loving environment his biological father Nick, never had.

Our hope was that by showing him unconditional love and acceptance, which we have, every single step of the way, we could help to ensure that he stayed on the right path. Tam\’s comments assumed that we treated Gavin differently because he was not my biological child. That couldn\’t be farther from the truth.

The simple truth is that Gavin\’s behaviors, not his biological roots, is why he MUST be treated differently. His fragile health is a reason that he MUST be treated differently. The choices he continues to make, requires him to be treated differently.

I\’ve known Tam for awhile and that\’s why is surprised me that she approached this in the manner in which she did. Everything was based on assumption and she presumed that we were guilty of something we are not.


I don't know any background on Tam, except that Rob has said she is a long-time reader of his, but I don't agree with her attitude. Until you have lived in his shoes, or mine as a matter of fact as I share many experiences as he does, how dare you question anything he does or says or feels? I don't know how Rob responded so nicely to you, but I know why. I, on the other hand, need to end commenting right now, or I won't be nice, because I don't have to.




I have 5 birth and 5 adopted kids. My grand plan was to give the 5 adopted kids the benefit of my "stellar" parenting skills, and I would have "saved" 5 kids from a life full of difficulties that their birth parents faced. Yeah, that did not work as well as I had hoped. One of my birth sons always said, "nature vs nurture. Nature wins every time". That used to irritate me to no end, given that I was pouring my life into changing the facts. Well, guess what! He was right. Sure, I did some good along the way, in 4 out of 5 cases, but their genetics won, big time. Of course I love them, but the facts are that there are some hard-wired things that are very difficult to change. I did my best, as you and Lizzie are doing, and that is all that anyone can do. My little Italian neighbor reminded me daily."what is, is". I don't mean to sound defeated, for you or for myself, but those 3 little words just about sum it up. After an especially tearful year, I had the realization that the kid, and all kids, were set on their own journey thru life, and that I was here to support and guide to the best of my ability, but it was not humanly possible to change who they are to please me or society, tho I certainly wanted to. After all, I had the answers! It was a rewarding and humbling experience, to be sure. Do the good you can, but don't lose yourself or the other boys in your quest to help things that likely won't be helped. Til you live this scenario, you just can't really get it. Peace, and keep looking for balance for all people's needs in the family.


Rob and Lizze, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through so much pain and sorrow. I know there’s nothing I can say to help ease the pain. But I want you to know that you have gone far and beyond to the point of sacrificing your very lives for Gavin and the boys. I mean what more can you do? If that tendency to act as a sociopath overrules his recognition that other people deserve respect and not rude behavior…there’s little else you can do. And I’m sorry but until other people are in your shoes, they have no right to judge! You have given up your life for Gavin, how on Earth can people criticize? You’ve done your best and more, you and Lizze had tried non stop to direct Gavin to more appropriate behavior. Sadly, biology overwhelms reasoning and stubbornly trumps over nurturing. Please don’t keep beating yourself up, Rob and Lizze. You have many friends you’ve yet to meet, myself included.



Do you realise that it’s not Nick’s personality they’re worried about? Sociopathy is not a choice or a personality trait, it’s a mental health disorder. Nick’s brain was not wired right, Not by choice, but by DNA, half of which unfortunately has been passed to Gavin. So now Gavin’s brain isn’t wired right and rob and Lizze have done EVERYTHING in their power to combat this and try and subvert the course of nature. I don’t see this post as defeatist, more just acceptance of a battle hard fought.



That was very well said. Perhaps I wasn\’t as clear as I thought. You explained it much better than I did.


I studied Psychology in college and though it was 10 years ago, i doubt much has changed in the nature vs nurture debate. Its still pretty open but it seemed to me that about 40% of behaviors are nature, 40% nurture and 20% what the individual does with the two. All of your faithful readers know that you and Lizzy are trying your hardest to do the best you can for Gavin. *hugs* to you all.


I don't know if you guys are religious at all, but there is obviously a spiritual component here and it would probably greatly benefit you if it could be addressed.

That said, the fact that you are willing to say this to the world tells me that you've probably felt this way for a while, and you feeling this way, no matter how you've tried to cover it around Gavin, has probably been apparent to him on some level (whether consciously or not). Your fear that he's going to become his father probably has and will continue to have an influence on him, and lead him in the very direction you do not want him to go. I think you will all be better off if you can stop thinking of him as a product of Nick's legacy and start thinking of him as Gavin only. He is his own person, and while he has challenges that have been passed on genetically, he is not tied to his father's personality. The more you recognize and believe this the more room you will give him to believe it himself, and the more likely he will be to make right choices instead of just giving in to what he's 'destined' to be.

I don't mean to criticize, but this type of attitude really upsets me, especially since you're not just feeling this way (feelings can't be helped), but have been willing to post it to the whole world. The way you feel about him can, has, and will affect his own image of himself, and one day he will figure out how to search the internet, if he hasn't already, and this post may very well damage him when he reads it.


You have no idea what this family goes through. Until you have walked one minute in their shoes you have no right to criticise or judge. This is not helpful and you should keep your negative opinions to yourself.



Until your in my shoes, you shouldn't judge. I respect your opinion but you missed the entire point. This in no way influences our treatment of him. His behavior however, is a different story. Gavin'/s behavior absolutely impacts the way he's treated. There is no way to avoid that.

You completely missed the point of this post and took it personally when it wasn't meant that way. I was using that situation to explain nature vs nurture. It's really easy to be upset by something when your not living it everyday. We don't view Gavin in regards to his father. Gavin is his own person. Based on Gavin's natural behaviors, it's very reasonable for me as his parent to recognize the similarities.

This in no way affects how we feel about him or whether or not we love him. Just because I'm strong enough to admit these feelings and the very real fear for his future, doesn't mean that Gavin knows anything about this. Give me some credit. Gavin doesn't read this blog and even if he did, it would likely be beyond his comprehension. Gavin has very serious mental health issues that were not brought on by anything we have felt, and despite our exhaustive efforts.

To be completely honest, if you spoke to the doctors and specialists involved, they will tell you, as they have told us, they have never seen any parents fight as hard and go through as much for the good of their child.

I'm sorry that this post has upset you but it's the unpleasant reality that I live in every single day. What I said is true but your assumptions of how I apply those feelings in our everyday life is not.

I'm not upset with you, just a bit surprised that's all. I really do appreciate your opinion, I just don't agree, that's all. 😉


I am not arguing whether there is a nature vs nurture issue or not, of course there is. And I'm not saying you shouldn't share your feelings and struggles, you have every right to do that. But this wasn't a "we're struggling with this issue" kind of post. This was a "we have no intention of giving up" but "nature can’t be overcome" kind of post. This read as we're going to keep struggling, but we've given up expecting anything more of him than to turn into his father's son. That attitude, where you say you're not giving up, but at the same time you're saying you've given up expecting better is what is harmful. And the fact that Gavin doesn't read this now doesn't mean he never will, things put on the internet last forever. Read this again as if your dad were saying it about you, how would you feel?

The notion that you can completely keep these kinds of feelings from ever showing to him is a little naive I think. Kids know a lot more than we give them credit for, even the ones with severe disabilities. Frustration and desperation always show through in one way or another.

Any parent has the right to their feelings and frustrations, and you guys have been through more than I can imagine and seem to have handled it better than most ever could, but it scares me that you've reached this point.


Tam, once again you have read way to into this post. I never said we don\’t expect better. I said that sometimes nature can\’t be overcome. It\’s very clear that some things are hardwired and can\’t be changed.

It\’s also unfair to say it would be like me reading a post like this from my father. Gavin literally you not understand most, of not all of this blog. It\’s not his fault, but it\’s the truth.

After 10 years of struggle, I have learned to deal in reality because it works out best. Otherwise, we would continue to pour the same energy into him hoping against hope that something will work, when in reality it won\’t. If Gavin were an only child or would be a completely different story. However, he\’s not and we have other kids that need things from us as well.


I would like to say that Tam has been a long time reader and supporter. This particular post must have struck a nerve with her and that\’s okay.

I hope we are still friends as I value that friendship. 🙂

Cassandra S

Rob, I completely GET it!!! With all three of our children being adopted, we also see the difference in nurture vs. nature in each of our children!


Thank you. So many people don\’t.