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Nurture Over Nature
In the debate of Nature Versus Nurture, this trope slides towards nurture.

When a character is raised by someone other than their natural parents, the character will often show traits, etc. from their natural parents, but also traits and traditions (or whatever they pick up) from their new ones .

Over time, a debate will come up for the character to choose: to be like one (set of) parent(s) or the other? Stay with one or join the other?

Depending on the context, this decision could shed some light on things for the story, characters, etc. For example, if the hero has raised the villain's natural child, the adoption can be shown in a positive light, and the child choosing to stay with their adoptive family is good.

If the Villain raises the child of the hero, then the adoption is seen negatively and the natural parent taking their child away can be seen as a "rescue" from a bad adoption. That being said, the Villain may actually love the child. Alternatively, the adopted family may be a pack of wolves, in which case the child will need to choose between the way of the wild, and the way of humans.

Often applies to characters who are Happily Adopted. Inversion of, but not mutually exclusive with, In the Blood, which is what a lot of characters think having an evil parent does to someone. See also Upbringing Makes the Hero for cases where a down-to-earth home life give potentially evil-inclined characters and normal ones the moral grounding to excel.

See also: Blank Slate, Conditioned to Accept Horror, More Than Mind Control, Rousseau Was Right, Stockholm Syndrome and Then Let Me Be Evil

Not to be confused with My Real Daddy, which is about creators of works, not characters.

Specific Cases:

In relation to Clones, Magically-generated characters, etc., an issue may popup that is related to how much freewill have they been given:


  • if the clone(s) were implanted with the memories from their source, the choice can become source-nature vs. source-nurture, and source-nurture would be chosen.
  • if the clone(s) don't have implanted memories, and are raised separately than the source, then the choice can become source-nature vs. new-nurture, and new-nurture would be choosen.

See also: Clones Are People Too

Living in the wild:

  • Does the person choose to follow the nurturing-of-nature, or his inherited nature. The choice, in this case, will be the nature they have come to love, instead of their human nature.

See also: Raised by Wolves

Magical Generation (or some other Phlebotinum)

See Also: Phlebotinum Rebel

Artificial Intelligence, Cyborgs, Robots and the like

  • Do they follow their original programming (the nature, in this case) or what they have learned since then (nurture)?
  • Does a cyborg follow the human nature, robot programming, or something else entirely?

See Also: Artificial Intelligence


Anime and Manga
  • In One Piece, Word of God confirmed that one of the themes of the story is "heredity doesn't matter and family is who you choose."

Comic Books
  • In one comic, the Eradicator's projection of Kem-El keeps badgering Superman (or Kal-El, as he calls him) to leave Earth and the pathetic humans who live there. Superman's response?

    Superman: My name is Clark Kent. Get out of my home. Get off of my planet.
  • Zig-Zagged in New Gods. Orion, son of Darkseid but raised by Highfather, the ruler of New Genesis, follows his nurture and becomes a good guy. Scot Free, son of Highfather but raised by Darkseid, follows his nature and becomes a good guy.

  • Disney's adaptation of Tarzan sees the main character almost depart with his newfound human companions for England, but a turn of events changes his mind and he eventually decides to stay in the jungle with the gorillas who raised him.

  • In Horton Hatches The Egg Horton (an elephant) sits on Mayzie's (a bird) egg while she is away. At the end of the story the egg hatches and has somehow turned into a birdephant.
  • In The Wheel of Time Rand very quickly decides that the couple who raised him are his real parents, though he's happy to learn more about his birth parents. The fact that the latter are dead simplifies things.
  • In Dune Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen was raised by his Magnificent Bastard uncle Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and it shows, the prequels of questionable canonicity show that his father was the White Sheep of the family. Meanwhile, the Baron's natural daughter Lady Jessica, whom he didn't even know he sired, is one of the kindest and most humane characters (which is ironically even more bizarre when you consider that she's a known member of a shadowy society whose cornerstones are emotional control and political manipulation).
  • In World Without End, Gwenda remarks that her son Sam shares many mannerisms with her husband, Wulfric, even though she knows he is really the product of her affair with Ralph.
  • In the novel Too Many Curses, the self-aware castle's loyalties are divided between the evil wizard who built but neglects it, and the kobold servant who's been diligently and compassionately tending to the place and its occupants for years.
  • The title character of the Ukiah Oregon series has this one in spades. He was found amnesiac and running with a wolf pack and adopted by a white lesbian couple from Pittsburgh. He then discovers that much of his personality was shaped not by that upbringing but by his upbring by his biological mother, a Umatilla woman named Kicking Deer, and that all three of his upbringings have been working against the nature bequeathed him by his alien father.
  • At the end of Silas Marner, Eppie's natural father reveals himself and offers to acknowledge her and make her his heir. Despite his promise of a loving family and great wealth, Eppie prefers to stay with the title character, who has raised her for the last sixteen years, and is the only parent she knows.

  • Son Goku in Dragon Ball was originally sent to Earth to destroy it. He was a savage little baby up until the moment he took a blow to the head. He become sweeter after that, and the lessons taught by his adoptive grandfather and throughout his life made him into Earth's greatest defender instead.

  • To some extent, Hellboy does this. When Hellboy is being pressured to accept his demonic nature and open the gate, Myers yells out "Remember who you are" and throws Bruttenholm's crucifix to HB ... who remembers how Bruttenholm raised him and fights for Team Humanity.
  • Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks, talks, and dresses like an Asgardian, covets the Asgardian throne, and uses magic (which he learned from his Asgardian mother) as his primary power. He has no interest in his Jotun heritage and no desire to rule Jotunheim; in fact, he tries to impress Odin by destroying it. The only thing he seems to have gotten from his biological parents is his streak of sociopathic megalomania — and for all we know Loki might have been a bad egg even among Jotuns! His attempts to disown his adopted family notwithstanding, he consistently identifies himself as Asgardian and is taken as such by everyone he meets.

Live-Action TV
  • Smallville had a growing conflict between Jor-El and Jonathan Kent.
    • They cooperated at the end of the Season 2 to get Red Kryptonite Clark home.
    • Jor-El was much more antagonistic at this point, even brainwashing Clark at the end of season 3. The constant fighting for Clark helped cost Jonathan his life.
    • During seasons 5-8, Clark took up his father's position for himself, representing his father's Earthly teachings. While Jor-El became more of a strict, but loving, father, who wanted Clark to be the beacon of light for the planet as well as be more Kryptonian (which meant cutting him off from friends and family).
    • This is ultimately resolved in the series finale, in which Clark chooses to embrace both sides in a happy marriage.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures has this in regard to Luke:
    • Luke wasn't born so much as grown by The Bane. Bane Leader, Mrs. Wormwood, still considers him her son and is proud of his intelligence, considering him to be a successful experiment. Luke however, doesn't like being considered an experiment, and is Happily Adopted by Sarah Jane (who he considers to be his "real" mother for all intended purposes). Sure he likes some of the perks being grown gave him (being the smartest guy in the room, having perfect health, etc) but he likes that Sarah Jane lets him be more or less a normal kid (or as close as an alien hunting son of a former time traveler can be, anyways).
    • One rather dark episode had it that Luke was actually not grown after all, but that The Bane had kidnapped him from a human family and simply altered him. This causes a ton of angst for Luke who does not want to go back to his family and never see Sarah Jane again. Sarah Jane meanwhile has to give up her son, knowing that it's the right thing to do, and that while she thought she was doing the right thing and loved him, his place is with his "real" family. His "real" family is very uncomfortable with Luke having forgotten about them and how during his amnesiac state with Sarah Jane; he forgot he was a football star (even claiming to hate the sport), became very shy and quiet, and really doesn't seem to like them very much. Granted it only last for about an episode because it was all an elaborate revenge plot caused by Sarah Jane's supercomputer being evil and the Slitheen kid from an earlier episode but still damn.
  • The episode "Cardassians" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine might have an example. A Cardassian youth raised by Bajoran parents sees himself as Bajoran.
    • To expand on that, the episode ends with him being sent home to his biological father because politics. The DS9 novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice details what happens to him after that.


Video Games
  • Contrast reveals that Vincenzo is Didi's biological father, so she has to decide whether to follow him or stay with Johnny, who helped raise her.

Western Animation
  • In the 2012 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Oroku Saki adopts Hamato Yoshi's daughter. Him going after her, can be seen as him trying to get back what he lost. While he is shown to be a loving father to the turtles, she doesn't know about her true parentage (mutagent aside), so she is currently (unknowingly) choosing to stay with the Shredder.
  • The episode "Dragon Quest" of MLP:FIM could be an example — Spike never meets his parents, but the theme of rejecting one "family" for the other occurs.
  • A flashback from Mr. Burns in The Simpsons plays it for laughs. He's shown as a child, living with a humble but caring family, when a fancy car stops in front of their house. He's then asked "Happy, would you like to continue living with us, your loving natural parents, or would you rather live with this twisted, loveless billionaire?". Burns got into the car without thinking twice about it.
    • Another, more dramatic example, is Bart being adopted by Mr. Burns.
  • The third Ice Age film has Sid take a trio of T. rex eggs, which promptly hatch and think he's their mother. However, their REAL mother soon comes looking for them, and of course is infuriated to find Sid stole them. The hatchlings convince her to let Sid live, but the two of them begin competing for their affection of their children. Ultimately, the T. rex mother wins, as she's the only one who can provide her children with real meat to eat, while Sid is unable to get the hatchlings to prefer vegetables.
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