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Upbringing Makes the Hero

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Good Parenting: is there any Angst it can't cure?

"I had a really wonderful upbringing. We were a tight family. It was wonderful to grow up with so many siblings. We were all just a year or two apart, and we were always so supportive of each other. I learned everything from my older brother and sister and taught it to my younger sisters."

"Heroes are made, not born" is a common and unstated theme in a lot of works. Though a good many heroic origins proudly trot out heroes who have been raised in The Spartan Way and can look Death in the eye-sockets without blinking before leaving their Tibetan monastery home, quite a few grew up Farm Boys who never picked up anything sharper than a hoe, though those can be quite a handful.

In fact, heroes with a down-to-earth upbringing tend to have a unique advantage over the more badass and epic ones: they're more centered. While they won't be saints, they'll have a strong enough moral compass to navigate most moral dilemmas, resist The Dark Side, and even refute Hannibal Lectures that more emotionally fragile heroes struggle with. If they gain super powers they won't forget "the little people" and turn into a Smug Super with delusions of grandeur. Though they didn't gain the crime-fighting prowess of a lifetime of Charles Atlas training, or the street-savvy of an orphan with a Dark and Troubled Past, they also didn't sacrifice basic skills or their social life.

These differences are often contrasted by pairing these characters together as an Action Hero and an Action Survivor in an Action Duo or pitting them against each other as Technician Versus Performer. The contrast can even be made an integral plot point by pitting the homey hero against a Tyke Bomb Raised by Orcs, and exploring just how much upbringing can damn or redeem. Frequently, this is played with by revealing the hero has Secret Legacy for evil. In these cases, it's usually left implicit (or explicitly stated) that without their upbringing they'd have gone evil. The Anti Anti Christ in particular usually has this for a background.

Evenhanded authors will acknowledge that the "classical" hero is more able at their job because of their sacrifices, while the more "normal" one is a hero because that which was not sacrificed is what makes them heroic. More biased tellings can make one or the other out as the better hero, usually slanting towards the meek, though Never Be a Hero does crop up.

One reason why Turn Out Like His Father can often keep the child from being Evil.

Compare Rousseau Was Right, which often goes hand in hand with this trope.

Contrast Freudian Excuse.

Contrast Conditioned to Be Weak, where a powerful character is only docile and submissive because they are conditioned to follow orders and/or fear their leader.

Also see Misery Builds Character, Nature Versus Nurture (and especially Nurture over Nature), Muggle Foster Parents. Not to be confused with A Hero Is Born or A Minor Kidroduction.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rin from Blue Exorcist was born as the child of Satan himself. While resident Badass Preacher Shiro could've killed the defenseless newborn, he instead took the child in and raised him as a human after sealing his demonic powers into a sword. Rin was a typical problem child: skipping school, very easy to anger, and if angered prone to excessive beatdowns (as seen when he put several fellow kindergarteners into the hospital for calling him a monster). Still, Shiro's upbringing turned Rin into a slightly feral-looking but otherwise normal and easy-going teenager. When Shiro was killed by Satan who tried to reclaim his son, however... Rin voluntarily unlocked his demonic form by unsheathing the sword that locked it away then became an Exorcist to, in his own words, kick Satan's ass. Even if he stays in his form for too long and goes Ax-Crazy, a single Cooldown Hug from a certain Plucky Girl is enough to return him to his senses. He's positively ashamed of his heritage and absolutely refuses to take a human life, possessed or not. Even if the possessor is Satan himself.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, it is abundantly clear from even the small snippets of Tanjiro's past that he was raised by a wonderful loving family that instilled in him all the morals and life lessons he needed to endure all the tragedy that followed. Tanjiro's entire family being slaughtered by a demon, save his sister Nezuko who becomes one, does not make his heart be consumed by unbridled rage and hatred, and instead he focuses all his efforts on the tiniest hope of curing Nezuko. Even when Tanjiro meets his arch-enemy Muzan Kibutsuji, he is only furious for a moment before setting his sight on helping people; saving others from suffering the same tragedy he faced is much higher on Tanjiro's list than killing the monster that ruined his life. The Kamado family is so loving that flashbacks showed they were consistently cozy hundreds of years ago, and by the end of the series it shows Tanjiro passed that love forward too, as his descendants are well adjusted.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku was supposed to destroy the Earth but was raised by a kind old man (and got a bit of brain damage hitting his head as a baby), becoming a hero. As of Retcon by Toriyama, however, Goku's good nature comes from his mother, Gine, and his parents sent him to Earth to save him from the Saiyan genocide.
    • A lesser version occurs with Trunks. His Bad Future incarnation was raised by the pure-hearted Gohan and is kind and humble, while the version in the main timeline was raised by his birth parents (an heiress and an egotist respectively) and is more of a Spoiled Brat. Though if one counts GT, Trunks grows up to be like his alternate timeline counterpart.
  • Panzer World Galient: Asbeth looked after and raised Jordy after his parents' death, teaching him to be kind, honorable, selfless, and generous. When Jordy grew up, he became The Hero that freed planet Arst from tyrant Marder and ruled the planet fairly.

    Comic Books 
  • Other heroes follow in a similar vein. Aquaman, for example, can (sometimes) attribute his heroic nature to being raised by down-to-Earth lighthouse-keeper Tom Curry, as opposed to the Royal Courts of Atlantis.
  • Jaime Reyes, the third Blue Beetle, has his parents supporting and advising him on his (admittedly unexpected) superhero career. When forced via magic to transform into his secret power fantasy, he becomes a dentist, because they make good money, which he can use to pay off his parents' mortgage, his sister's college, and maybe get a nice vacation place near his grandma's home in Mexico City.
  • Eddie Bloomberg/Kid Devil/Red Devil is a mixed bag. He has issues with his parents' neglect but his Aunt Marla raised him well until her death and his hero Blue Devil served as a fairly good role model for a time. While Eddie often makes bad choices due to his lack of guidance, he does try to be a good hero.
  • It's heavily implied that the reason why Captain America/Steve Rogers is the man that he is, it's because of the love and care given to him by his parents, especially from his mother, Sarah Rogers.
  • Captain Marvel both averts this and plays it straight. It's clear that Billy Batson was raised by a good, loving couple that instilled good morals in him, which explains where the foundations for his personality come from. But at the same time, once they were brutally murdered, Billy was thrown out onto the street by the person who was entrusted to be his guardian, leaving him homeless and penniless. But instead of becoming bitter about this, Billy not only held on to the beliefs of his parents but gained a sense of empathy and compassion for people who suffer any kind of tragedy. This idealism in the face of such a situation was what convinced the wizard Shazam that young Billy was the first person in 5,000 years to be worthy to wield his power.
  • Hellboy was raised as a son by Professor Bruttenholm and fed pancakes, and thus was the Apocalypse Maiden turned to the side of humanity. The poster boy for Anti Anti Christ.
  • In the New Gods, Orion, the son of cosmic villain Darkseid, was exchanged as an infant as part of a peace treaty between New Genesis and Apokalypse. Although Orion has his father's evil rage In the Blood, he was also raised with loving care and patience by New Genesis' Highfather. That with his friends on that idealistic world enabled Orion to master and channel his dark side to become his home's most powerful and fiercest hero.
  • Runaways is all over the map with this trope. On the one hand, some of its members with abusive backgrounds (like Chase) turned out more or less okay, while others (like Xavin or Klara) needed some extra factor (like Xavin's love for Karolina or Klara's foster parents) to start to turn themselves around. On the other hand, loving parents did not preclude Alex from becoming a sociopath, but it may have been what stopped Nico from becoming an evil witch or Molly from becoming an evil mutant, as their respective sets of parents were. And then there's Victor, who was given a humble background with a loving single mother and thus became the most altruistic member of the team... except that his dad is Ultron, and he's a cyborg who is programmed to become the world's greatest hero before betraying his friends and allies and ushering in a Bad Future.
  • Uncle Ben is a reason Spider-Man's motto is "with great power comes great responsibility". Although this could also count as a subversion, despite being raised by loving and supportive parents Peter Parker had no interest in being a hero. It was seeing the consequences of dismissing his great responsibility that made the hero. However, it's ultimately played straight in that Aunt May is one of his biggest moral compasses.
  • Virgil Hawkings, aka Static. Despite being raised around gang violence, Virgil was actually raised in a stable home by both of his parents. This plays a role in why Static is one of the few non-Anti Heroes in Milestone's line.
  • Supergirl: Usually, Kara Zor-El's parents are decent people who try to be good role models. When Kara arrives on Earth, Superman helps to raise her, teaches her how to use her powers, and tries to instill the Kents' teachings in her. The result? Some Supergirl incarnations can be sort of bratty or emo at the beginning, but ultimately all Supergirls develop into The Cape.
    • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Commissioner James Gordon was a real cop. He swore to protect the good people of Gotham from criminals and took his duty very seriously. And so his daughter Barbara does when she becomes Batgirl.
  • Superman is a classic example. Whenever tempted to use his powers for either personal gain or revenge, he's usually shown as remembering the values he was taught by the Kents.
    • In Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, Superman draws a distinction between "fighting" (i.e. against enemies) and "fighting for something" (meaning the Earth, and the kind people on it) while in a cornfield in Smallville.
    • The Death of Clark Kent: '90s villain Conduit hated Clark due to an extreme case of Why Are You Not My Son?; so extreme that his dad continued comparing him to Clark while standing over his grave... and right next to Superman, who snapped that he became the man he was because of his parents, and Kenny / Conduit might have turned out better with a halfway-decent father.
    • In War World Superman sees a vision of his adoptive father and says his Earth parents taught him honor, morality, and a sense of justice.
    • More than one Elseworlds story has been devoted to exploring what Superman would be like if he hadn't been raised in Kansas. Tellingly, Red Son, in which he is raised in Communist Ukraine, has him becoming a (benevolent) totalitarian dictator, while JLA: The Nail, where he is raised by Amish, has him develop a similar personality to the Big Blue Boy Scout we all know and love. And Superman: True Brit, which more or less led to Superman becoming a ditzier version of Lord Bravery from Freakazoid!.
    • Played with in the year-long The Black Ring storyline in Action Comics. Therein, Luthor, imbued with godlike powers, discovers Clark Kent's wholesome upbringing and completely loses his shit at the revelation: he's so given in to rage and pride and his own Freudian Excuse for a crappy childhood that he's literally incapable of comprehending goodness, even (especially?) in his archenemy.
  • Deconstructed with Mark Milton aka Hyperion in Supreme Power, who is basically a Superman Expy... who was raised by military officers ordered to pretend they were a Happily Married couple. He told his "father" that the only reason he didn't simply fly away and do whatever he wanted was because his "parents" loved him, and they didn't want him to. Then they were retired in a faked fishing accident. He's been doing poorly since then.
  • Traditionally Wonder Woman's upbringing just helped to reinforce her naturally stellar personality and sense of responsibility but on some Elseworlds, such as Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: Generations, it's made clear that her heroic nature is due to her mother's careful guidance and the fact that she and the other Amazons worked hard to instill the Amazon's code of ethics, which rejects killing if at all feasible even if it endangers themselves, into the superpowered child on their island.
  • Invoked in X-Force, where Fantomex creates a virtual simulation childhood for a superhuman he's growing in a lab that is uncannily similar to Superman's (set in Kansas, kindly old-fashioned parents, etc.), hoping that it'll raise him as a hero. It's for a child clone of Apocalypse.

    Fan Works 
  • Played Straight in The Bridge with Godzilla Junior. While we knew he was a Gentle Giant towards humans, unlike his predecessor; we do see the full implications of the love and care he received under Azusa Gojo as a baby now that he's all grown up. It turned him into his world's Big Good instead of its next big Eldritch Abomination despite being one of the more powerful kaiju of all time. The spin-off, Sound of Thunder, shows exactly what happens when this isn't the case: Junior's Mirror Universe self instead got Mirror Azusa, who was a cruel witch to him and his birth mother abandoned his egg. The result is him being his world's Big Bad and an utter psychopath with no regard for life in any form. Prime Junior even outright states this is the case as a Shut Up, Hannibal! to Grand King Ghidorah's You Could Have Used Your Powers for Evil speech.
    Junior: ”Because Azusa Gojo didn’t raise a monster.”
  • Freedom's Limits: Inglenn brings this up in a conversation with Madavi, expressing surprise that she and Pratima turned out to be such well-adjusted and polite girls despite growing up in Barad-dûr surrounded by Orcs and all manner of nasty company. Madavi starts to say that not all the Orcs were horrible, thinking of her close friend Smador, but then thinks better of it when Inglenn looks shocked, saying instead that she never really interacted with any Orcs.
  • Inverted in Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy. Darkseid steals Satan Girl and Mordru's son and raises him into a pitiless, blood-thirsty, invincible killing machine.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku Midoriya, who is the Midoriyas' adopted Kryptonian Wonder Child in this fic, explicitly cites his adoptive parents in his narration as the driving force behind him becoming the world's greatest hero.
    Izuku: Even though I was an alien, even though no one liked the kind of thing I was, they never treated me like I was anything other than their son. It's thanks to their love and support that I became the person I am today, and it's because of their love and support that I was able to become the greatest Hero in the world.
  • Wonderful (Mazinja): Danny instilled the idea that people are capable of amazing things when they work together in his daughter Taylor, and his Heroic Sacrifice encouraged her to become a hero.

    Film — Animated 
  • A strange subversion in Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Instead of goodhearted farm folk, this version of Superman was raised by undocumented migrant workers. Although they were still good people, his early life was pretty rough, and he grows up to be an Unscrupulous Hero rather than The Cape. The subversion comes in because this Superman isn't the son of Jor-El, so it's unclear whether genetics or upbringing account for his different behavior.
    "I've seen the harshness of life. If I sometimes deliver justice with a heavy hand, it's because I've been on the receiving end."
  • In Superman: Doomsday, after Superman dies from injuries sustained from fighting Doomsday, he comes back to life and returns to his heroics. At first, people who encounter him noticed that he seems "off" somehow, including Lois Lane, who secretly knew he was Clark Kent all along. It's then revealed that this Superman is actually a clone created by Lex Luthor, who essentially raised him. Naturally, this new Superman expressed the characteristics of a man who is willing to use force to get what he wants, and flaunt the law because he knows they can't do anything to stop him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In A New Hope, naïve Farm Boy Luke goes from cleaning up droids to destroying the Death Star. While it helps that The Force was strong with him, his aunt Beru and uncle Owen gave him the kind of stable family life that helped to instill the kind of good character strong enough to resist The Dark Side.
    • Subverted in the case of his father Anakin Skywalker, who had as good an upbringing as a slave could have thanks to his mother. However because he still grew up in a harsh environment as a slave, there were potential problems (as Yoda sensed in him). Furthermore, his mentors (acting as parental substitutes of sorts) were caring, but also aloof. When his mother died, horribly and just after Anakin rescued her, he took it very badly and the fear of losing his wife and unborn children as well were key factors in his fall to The Dark Side, (though Palpatine easily capitalized on this to convert him).
      • The Star Wars Expanded Universe actually gives many justifications for Anakin Skywalker's eventual fall. After being adopted by the Jedi, the other Jedi didn't exactly welcome him lovingly. Instead, Anakin spent his adolescent years being mostly alienated by his masters and peers; he also would rather clutter the Temple's halls with droids he built and join illegal street races than meditating, and the few genuine friends he did make ended up dead or left the Order. By the time he made the choice to fall, Mace Windu was fully aware that Skywalker was a tangled emotional wreck who had been bounced around between conflicting allies and didn't know where to turn, but unfortunately Mace didn't know how he could help Anakin with his troubles without making them worse. Prequel-era Jedi in general are often portrayed as not being very competent regarding psychological stability despite all their preaching about peace and calmness, which is why many Jedi had rebelled during the Clone Wars.
  • This short film, based on Kim Newman's short story "Ubermensch!", has an obvious Superman Expy crash landing on a farm and being raised by goodhearted rural folk... in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. Although he upholds Nazi ideals instead of the American Way, he does eventually realize how the extent of the Reich's atrocities and decides to voluntarily surrender himself.

  • Invoked in The Belgariad with respect to The Hero, Garion. Being raised as a farmboy and kept in ignorance of his heritage was Polgara's ploy to ensure that the future heir to the throne of Riva and ultimate savior of the world would have a solid head on his shoulders when he got there. It's even more important as the Orb of Aldur would not respond to his touch if he weren't "without evil in the fastness of his soul".
  • Zig-zagged in Belisarius Series. Rajiv, Shakuntala, and Eon are of royal or noble blood and are trained intensely by the best warriors in the world; all three of them also turn out to be great warriors themselves. Belisarius, by contrast, is a petty Thracian country gentleman who learned on the job to be the best general in history. One way or another all of them turned out to be badass.
  • In The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, Seigi was raised by a hardworking mother with a stepfather who is frequently out of the country. As a result, he spent lots of time with his grandmother, who firmly impressed on him to help people at every opportunity, which he carries with him throughout the series, and even picked his name, which means "Justice."
  • Discworld: Carrot Ironfounderson of the Ankh-Morpork Watch is like this, except instead of being raised on a farm he was raised in a mine, by dwarfs. The results are largely the same, however.
  • Invoked in Harry Potter. Dumbledore wanted Harry to be raised by his Muggle aunt and uncle so that he wouldn't buy into his own publicity and become an entitled Smug Snake. This wound up backfiring in a lot of ways because the Dursleys were horribly abusive towards Harry because they hated magic, but it also wound up working better than Dumbledore could've hoped: Harry's mistreatment because of his "difference" made him one of the most empathetic characters in the series when it came to the plights of people in trouble or individuals, groups or races being mistreated, and therefore one of the first to dive head-long into danger to help others.
    • However, Voldemort was raised in similar conditions -if anything he might honestly have been better off than Harry in some ways- and ended up a mass-murdering sociopath. The implication is that there's something fundamental in the soul that determines whether one is good or evil, and upbringing is just a Freudian Excuse.
    • It's actually made explicit in the second book that Harry Potter and Tom Riddle are very similar in all ways except one: despite the similarities of their backgrounds and conditions, they made different choices. Dumbledore explains that this difference is the most important difference two people can have - upbringing and nature may both have some influence on heroism, yes, but it is our choices that make us who we really are. Essentially, Harry tried to make friends with others, while Tom Riddle just looked for power and followers.
      • However, this all becomes much more complicated due to J.K. Rowling's statements that had Voldemort's mother survived to raise him herself, Voldemort wouldn't have become the mass-murderer that he became. The fact that he can't love is a symbolic way of showing that he came from a loveless union.
  • In Rapunzel and the Lost Lagoon, it's implied that the Captain of the Guard is invoking this trope when he insists his adoptive daughter Cassandra become the Lady-In-Waiting of Princess Rapunzel, due to Cassandra unknowingly being the daughter of Mother Gothel, the kidnapper of Rapunzel.
    The return of the lost princess is the best thing that's happened to Corona," my father said. He raised an eyebrow. "Surely you share the happiness of this moment, Cassandra, I would expect no less."
  • In Runemarks, Maddy is raised in a slightly-more-secular-than-most-places backwater village and grows up hearing stories of the old gods from One-Eye who turns out to be Odin himself, and is allied with the Aesir. In the sequel, we meet Maggie, raised in the Order's seat of power, indoctrinated by their beliefs, and recruited by a self-proclaimed Demon Hunter who goes out of his way to turn her even further and is possessed by the Big Bad. Guess whose side she turns out on. The kicker? They're twins. Their real names are Modi and Magdi, and they belong to the Norse pantheon as much as anyone else does. The old 'nature versus nurture' argument is present with these two in spades.
  • In Super Powereds, Vince grew up as a vagabond, because, being Powered meant that no foster family would take him. It didn't help that his ability is extremely dangerous, if not under control. Fortunately for him, another homeless man took him in and raised him as his own, instilling in him a strong moral compass, as well as the ability to fight. So when Vince is finally given control over his abilities and is invited to attend Lander University's Hero Certification Program, he eagerly accepts, wishing to pay society back by becoming a Hero. Throughout the novels, he is the Incorruptible Pure Pureness personified. He does his best to see only the good in people, but he isn't afraid to stand up for those, who need help. When he goes to work at a Hero-themed restaurant, whose employees are required to wear costumes, everyone agrees that Vince in costume looks like a genuine Hero, not just... well, a guy in a costume. It doesn't hurt that his ability is potentially extremely powerful and highly versatile.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, this is explicitly Zedd's reason for bringing up Richard, the Seeker, in the Westlands, where magic and high society are unknown. And then later subverted, when it turns out that Zedd was a bit of a Person of Mass Destruction in his earlier life, and over time Richard starts to exhibit similar tendencies. Notable in that this was unintentional on the part of the author, who considers it a straight example.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand al'Thor is a shepherd from a backwater village who gains all of the memories and abilities of the previous Age's Chosen One, Lews Therin, who was a high-born global celebrity with centuries of experience in public service and leadership. This situation invites the question of whether any of Rand's own attributes as Rand matter at all to his being the world's future savior, or whether he's just an irrelevant vessel for all of Lews Therin's knowledge. Rand ultimately concludes that him being Rand rather than Lews is actually crucial because Rand's salt-of-the-earth upbringing was what allowed him to survive the Dark One's attempts to push him past the Moral Event Horizon and the Despair Event Horizon. Lews Therin, despite his many admirable qualities, would have broken under the same circumstances.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Moses in is trained by both his biological mother and by the Egyptians, and later spent forty years as a shepherd in the Wilderness before he got The Call from God to be a Moses Archetype when he was eighty years old.
    • David spent his childhood working as a shepherd for his father. Similarly to Moses, David also got The Call from God.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: This trope is both discussed and shown in the Framework Arc: Several of the main characters end up in a simulated reality that is altered by one thing: 1. Most of them (with the exception of Daisy and Simmons) had their memories of reality outside the simulation erased, 2. their biggest regrets are erased in the simulation. The result:
  • In The Boys, when Homelander pays a visit to Dr. Jonah Vogelbaum, the man who created Compund-V, and thus responsible for the creation of superheroes, he admits that having been raised alone in a laboratory instead of with a loving family is what led to Homelander to grow up to be a sociopath.
    • This trope turns out to be important to the overarching plot when the origin of superheroes is revealed. Almost all Supes were a result of children subjected to illegal injections of an illicit drug (Compound V) with the consent of their parents, who were financially compensated for the opportunity. The procedure crippled or killed the majority of candidates, but ended up granting the survivors superpowers. While the series never says so outright, basic logic indicates that a system like that is heavily selecting towards dysfunctional families since no good parent would subject their children to an illegal and dangerous experiment like this. This matches pretty well with the known backstories of the supes: Homelander had no real parents, Queen Maeve's dad is mentioned to be a gambling addict from a poor town, A-Train grew up without a father and spent most of his formative years in poverty, Starlight's mother is a callous Stage Mom while her father is absent, etc. As a result, the bulk of supes in the story are unscrupulous.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Discussed Trope with Buffy's comparisons to Dark Action Girl Faith. Losing any strong family figures (Joyce's death, Giles leaving) proves the trope correct.
  • Invoked in Camelot. As part of his Batman Gambit to create the perfect king, Merlin gave baby Arthur to an ordinary rural family so that he'd be raised with a stronger moral compass and an appreciation of the plight of the common folk.
  • Lampshaded in Kyle XY in Season 2, when Kyle defends the actions of his Distaff Counterpart Jessi by pointing out that, had he not been found by the Trager family, he could have easily ended up the same way.
  • In Smallville, Clark Kent, naturally. When he is raised by the Luthors instead? Not so much.

    Video Games 
  • Played with in Blaze Union. Our hero Gulcasa grew up in the ghetto, oppressed by the rich and those who feared and despised his demon blood, and was abandoned by his mother and abused by his father. By some miracle, he managed to come out of all this as an unbelievably kind and empathetic person. "Some miracle" also goes by Siskier and Jenon, the two childhood friends who essentially raised Gulcasa and restored his faith in and ability to trust other people. It's strongly implied that without Gulcasa's traumatic childhood, he wouldn't have developed his ideals and sense of justice—but also that without Siskier and Jenon, he wouldn't have the gentle nature and morals that enable him to become a great and beloved leader, and wouldn't have been able to withstand the Trauma Conga Line he gets put through towards the end of Blaze Union and throughout Yggdra Union.
  • Detroit: Become Human: A Pacifistic Markus can portray his relationship with his former owner Carl as this trope. An android lucky enough to belong to an owner who loved and encouraged independent thought in him, to the point of being a Parental Substitute, goes on to fight for a world where humans and androids coexist equally and peacefully.
  • In Dragon Age, as the illegitimate son of King Maric, Alistair had a much harder upbringing than his half-brother, having been forcing into a monastery due to his Uncle and Foster-Father's new wife despising him. Despite all of this, he's an incredibly humble and upbeat individual and if chosen to become King during the Landsmeet, ultimately proves to be a better warrior and beloved ruler than even his brother was.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke grew up on a farm in Lothering before being forced to flee with their family from the Blight. Despite rising from a penniless refugee to a member of the nobility, they were never afraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done in Kirkwall, making them both incredibly popular and a hero to the people in their adopted hometown.
    • Hawke's modest upbringing is nicely contrasted with their Uncle Gamlen, who was born into nobility as part of the incredibly wealthy Amell family. Fast-forward twenty-five years and Gamlen is near-destitute and living in the slums in Lowtown, having gambled away or squandered the entire family fortune on wine, women, searching for a prized gem and some bad investments in Qunari cheeses.
  • Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was raised by kind nobles who have no problems taking him in despite being a commoner while they are a noble. Helps that his adopted father likes his adopted big brother who is Rean's biological father and makes sure that Rean doesn't end up becoming what Osborne has become.
  • It's all-but-stated that Lumera in Fire Emblem Engage is how Alear ended up the All-Loving Hero they are. Emphasized later on, when it's revealed they were originally Sombron's child and were Happily Adopted by her. Alear still fully considers Lumera their "real" family.
  • A definite source of constant debate among the Mass Effect fandom, where you can choose the background of the Player Character. One involves a sixteen-year-old escaping an EXTREMELY horrific massacre of his/her hometown, and another involves growing up in the overpopulated, gang-ridden slums of an Earth city. The third involves being raised aboard ships and space stations (with at least one surviving parent). Of course, it's the other major background choice and the choices of the player throughout the games that really explain what kind of person the Player Character truly is.
    • The upbringing does have a small effect on gameplay. Depending on the background you choose, you get a slight bonus to paragon and renegade points. Being Earthborn adds a renegade bonus, and being a Spacer does the same thing for paragons. Being a colonist results in a smaller bonus to both sides of the meter. At one point, each of them can admit to Ashley that their early life is what influenced them to join the military. The Colonist, for example, can admit that s/he wanted to make sure that what s/he went through at 16 wouldn't happen to others.
  • Much like the Mass Effect example above, the Baldur's Gate series implies this, but the game itself shows what kind of person the Player Character is. Even so, the trope does apply in-story: it's implied that since the Player Character was raised by a good father figure, s/he is much better equipped to deal with his/her heritage and emerging powers than many others were. If s/he has a good alignment, this trope is doubly true, setting up him/her as a foil to your mostly-evil half-siblings. And even if s/he is evil, s/he is still the one prophesied to prevent those evil half-siblings from causing widespread destruction.
  • This trope appears in the Metal Gear series: Solid Snake and Liquid Snake were both created as clones of Big Boss through the Les Enfants Terribles project. When the project was abandoned following their birth, one of the cloned sons, David, lived among several foster families in the United States and had a relatively normal childhood. He would enlist in the US military and eventually join Foxhound, becoming the legendary war hero "Solid Snake". The other clone, Eli, was shipped off to England, where he was abused by his handlers, making him misanthropic and prompting him to escape from their custody in Africa, becoming a child soldier. He would learn of the fact that he was a clone, believe he was made using Big Boss' recessive genes, and go on to become the villainous "Liquid Snake".
  • In Pokémon Black and White, N was raised by Pokémon his whole life, which influenced him to fight against Pokémon battling and capturing.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus shows B.J.'s childhood, from his devoted mother and abusive father to Billie, a black girl he'd befriended (and incurred the wrath of his father for). In one flashback, B.J. is gleefully watching a rat drown in a bucket, eagerly bringing Billie to come watch too. She's horrified, and begs him to set the rat free. Just as the rat starts to sink, B.J. kicks the bucket over to save its life. Without this, B.J. might never have learned that Good Feels Good.

  • Girl Genius have Bill and Barry Heterodyne. They came from a very long line of bloodthirsty warlords and apparently their father wasn't much better. It was their mother who taught them to use their Sparky powers for good. Agatha too has a lot of baggage both from the old Heterodynes and her own mother, but she was raised first by Barry and then by Punch and Judy, who installed a strong moral compass in her.
  • The Order of the Stick's bard Elan was raised by a Chaotic Good barmaid in what was implied to be a peaceful village. His Evil Twin Nale, on the other hand, was raised by a Lawful Evil warlord in a continent full of constant fighting, with other warlords trying to usurp each other's power. Though a flashback shows that Nale was always the more aggressive of the twins, even as babies, Elan wonders what might have been if their positions had been switched.
    • In the side story How the Paladin Got His Scar, it is revealed that O-Chul was once the son of a pair of bandits. After his father was killed and his mother arrested, he was adopted by his parents' arresting sergeant, and raised by the man's sister. It is because of this compassion shown to him, when the rest of the world would rather have spat on him, that he shows compassion to everyone, and why he is steadfast in his duty to protect the innocent against insurmountable danger.
  • Sidekick Girl technically plays this straight, but outright mocks the way superhero comics tend to approach it.

    Western Animation 
  • Deconstructed in one episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, where we're shown two parallel versions of Peter. One lost Aunt May in addition to Uncle Ben, and in grief decided to embrace the Carnage symbiote, becoming evil. The other never lost Uncle Ben at all; although he wasn't evil, he never saw firsthand the possible consequences of using his powers selfishly and became a Jerkass who uses his powers mostly to be a celebrity.

    Real Life 
  • The ancient Romans believed that the best way to guarantee the young became great leaders was to instill them with a good moral compass (by the standards of the time) and give them a good education: their mothers generally took this responsibility, reflecting the role Cornelia had in raising Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, two of the most celebrated plebian consuls. In addition, those children who could afford to go to school were taught civic virtues there.
    • Averted by Ostrogoths. Theodoric stated a boy who has once trembled at the sight of schoolmaster's rod, does not dare to bear a sword as adult.
  • The ancient Chinese were also big believers in this Trope. And not just for heroes, but in making good citizens and decent human beings, upbringing and education were key. Mencius, the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself was actually the product of this, as his mother supposedly moved three times just to ensure the right environment for her son. It paid off.